Sunday, October 11, 2009

Indigo Magic!

Indigo Magic!
It was a wild ride in September teaching natural dyeing while learning how to do it myself. Students teach me everything I didn't think to teach them. After trying cochineal (scarlet to fuchsia), annato seeds (gold) onion skins (yellow to apricot), red cabbage (pink and, cutch (tobacco brown), eucalyptus (another yellow), rosemary (yellow-green), the grand finale of the month was a vat of indigo. Indigo is different than the other natural dyes, which simply take the color while soaking or cooking. When you dip the cloth into the indigo vat it turns watery green. Only in the air does it turn deep blue. I found 3 very different recipes for using "pre-reduced" indigo. (With pre-reduced indigo, soda ash does the same job that lye does in traditional indigo, but with less exposure to a very nasty chemical.) It's supposed to be a lot simpler to make a pre-reduced indigo vat that a traditional one. So I tried the recipe from Pro Chemical. Maybe it was beginner's luck, but the vat worked beautifully. We got some wonderful blues with shibori-stitched white resists making high contrast, plus rich greens and purples when we overdyed the yellow and red wool and silk. It was messy and drippy: the floor under the drying racks was covered in old towels, but it was really exciting to see the colors change to beautiful blues.

There is some interest in a Natural Dyeing Weekend Workshop at my studio, where 2 whole days will be plenty of time to simmer,soak, and dye, with access to an electric stove. (Three hour class units of time are not ideal for natural dyeing!) Probably in mid-or late November. Contact me for further details.
October is felting season. We're now using thenatural dyed fleece in wonderful shades.

Website Make-Over
Many edits, additions and revisions later, my greatly improved website is finally on line. It's at the same address; ( If this link does not work, copy and paste the address into your browser.) What's new is a whole page of photos with descriptions of workshops, and lots more art quilts, including a page of my Gees Bend inspired pieces, called 'Round the Bend Quilts. Take a peek and let me know what you think.
I especially want to recommend my webmaster Chris Pagels. He is incredibly meticulous and his rates are very very reasonable. .

Cyber-Fiber -links of interest to me and maybe you...
Shibori stitching techniques:

Natural dye related: Natural dye supplier with interesting stories about the dyestuffs tapestry weaver/knitter using exclusively natural-dyed fiber

Submissions: a giant quilt seeking submissions paper mache heads contest for Dia del los Muertes is jurying entries in October for their "tiny 09" holiday show. Entries must be less than 7" and under $400. This is the gallery that sold my quilted pizza. They are nice folks to work with.
Art: really amazing quilts

PIQF, the Pacific International Quilt Festival comes to Santa Clara October 15 - 18. A rilly big shew of everything quiltish. This year it's on the same weekend as the other gigantic quilt show in Houston. So if you can't go to Houston, be sure to get to Santa Clara. (Look for my Obama quilt in the New Quilts of Northern CA section.)

I don't know who is reading the blog except the few people who are "followers". Please send me a note or a comment and tell me that I'm not just talking to myself and 3 other people.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Natural Dye Report, etc.

Borscht and Natural Dye
The smells of onions and red cabbage cooking were eminating from my classroom last week when we started the natural dyeing module of the surface design class. Onion skins produced a beautiful apricot color on fleece and on silks. The red cabbage created a pale orchid color on silk, but the fleece didn't take much color. Later when the orchid silk was rinsed and dry, we dipped swatches if it into soda ash solution. It immediately turned a stronger turquoisey-gray color. Dipping it in a vinegar solution turned it more pinkish. Both effects were wash-proof. The blue effect has enough contrast for resist pattern possibilities....
This week we cooked up some cutch, a resin from the acacia tree. It made a beautiful tobacco brown on silk and wool. Natural dyeing isn't that hard. It's a lot like cooking. You put the right ingredients in the pot, simmer, strain, cool, add fabric simmer, cool, rinse. The challenge is to do it all in a 3 hour class! (A weekend workshop would be a better venue. ) Next week we'll try rosemary and also eucalyptus leaves, which one student is kindly cooking up at home in advance.
All of the colors from the natural dyes are soft and a bit muted. They mix and match wonderfully together.

Make a Felt Purse in Berkeley this Saturday

There is still room in my introduction to feltmaking class at Knit-One-One, 1 - 4 PM on September 12th. You'll learn several basic felting techniques, including needlefelting, while making a felt purse or pouch . $44 + $8 supply fee. Call 510-420-8706 to join the felting frenzy.

The Obama Quilt Keeps on Movin'
I've just received word that my quilt made in celebration of the election (see first blog post) will be in a year-long exhibit at the National Museum of African American Art ( I think that's the actual name..) in Wilberforce Ohio starting in December. Before that it will be on view at the New Quilts of Northern California exhibit at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara in mid-October.

Friday, August 28, 2009

This just in... Job & Internship @ SF Arts Commission

1. Program Associate, Cultural Equity Grants Program, San Francisco ArtsCommission*Assists in the design, coordination and implementation of a spectrum ofarts-related programs in a government arts agency, including grantsmanagement, technical assistance, convenings, research, etc. Preferredqualifications: experience in and commitment to working with artists andarts organizations, esp. those rooted in historically underservedcommunities; critical thinker; effective communicator; detail-orientedmulti-tasker; experience in arts administration and financial management;Excel, database and internet savvy.Salary: $44,902-$54.574 + benefits.EOE. Women, People of Color and People with Disabilities are encouraged toapply. Position open until filled.For detailed announcement & how to apply:**

2. Intern, Community Arts and Education Program, San Francisco ArtsCommission*The Community Arts and Education program of the San Francisco ArtsCommission seeks an intern who can commit to working at least eight hoursduring the fall semester. Tasks include helping with the launch of the Artin Storefronts program, continuing with the Deep Roots podcast, andassisting with WritersCorps and arts education events. The San Francisco Arts Commission is the City agency that champions thearts in San Francisco.We believe that a creative cultural environment is essential to the City’swell-being. Our programs integrate the arts into all aspects of City life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Announcing : FiberMaggie's Closet – the BLOG

If you've been receiving my email newsletters, times are changing: I'm finally getting with the blog movement. This blog will replace my newsletter, retaining features of it: shows to see and to enter, websites (and blogs) of interest to fiber artists, notices of upcoming conferences and talks. (I get much of this information from you.) Plus new features, like answers to fiber art-related questions I receive. I will continue my policy of only talking about classes or workshops that I'm taking or teaching. My current classes are easy to find any time at my newly improved website:
FiberMaggie the blog won't be much like lots of blogs I've read where the writer goes on about her day, new recipes and her projects in progress. OK, it will have a little horn blowing about exhibits and publications I'm involved with...there has been a lot of news lately...I'll get to that below. But this blog will be about fiber art, not my whole life. I will blog as the spirit or the fiber news moves me. That's different too: I plan to blog more often than every 3 months (the newsletter schedule). I will only send you a tiny email notice of new postings. (Don't worry, I won't do that daily or probably even weekly.)
So without further introduction:
Welcome to FiberMaggie's Closet – the blog

Current exhibits to visit;
PIQF the annual jumbo quilt exhibit in Santa Clara on October 15 – 18
International Quilt Show in Houston is the same weekend.

Artistry in Fashion September 26th at CaƱada College, Redwood City. Meet professional designers and shop an array of unique fashions. In it's 18th year, this sale is a benefit for student scholarships. Adm. $10.00. Web coupon for $1.00 off. or 650 306-3370
Textile Arts Council’s Ethnic Textile Bazaar September 26th the Sewing Workshop, 2010 Balboa at 21st Ave. SF. Great textiles from faraway places and surplus books from the FAMSF library – all at reasonable prices. It's also a benefit, for the the Textile Arts Council. Free admission. Noon – 4 PM. 415-750-3627 or

My Upcoming Workshops:
Silk Painting Workshop Saturday October 24, 10 - 4 PM at San Mateo Adult School, 78 Poplar Ave. San Mateo. Silk painting is a happy hybrid of watercolor and batik. Create a luminous silk scarf while learning everything you need to get going in this very satisfying fiber art technique. The specifics of choosing dyes, mixing colors, choosing the silk, resist and non-resist painting techniques and steam-setting the silk will be covered. If you've tried silk painting, you'll discover the best strategies to prepare the silk for painting, new painting and resist techniques, easy steaming, and freedom to play with color on silk. Registration deadline Thursday, 10/22. 650-558-2100. $70 (+$10.00 supply fee payable to instructor in class).

Silk Painting Workshop Sunday September 27, 11 - 5 PM at my studio in South San Francisco. $80 includes supplies. See full description above.
Make a Felt Purse Saturday September 12, 1- 4 PM at Knit-One-One,3360 Adeline, Berkeley.
Discover the magic of turning wispy bits of fiber into a strong, solid 3-dimensional fabric, just using soapy water and your hands! Starting with unspun merino wool fleece, we'll lay out and create felted bags. Make yours unique by adding different colors of dyed fleece right into the construction. Roll and attach a handle, and then wear it home. $44.00 (Materials fee of $8.00 payable in class) sign up on line or call 510-420-8706

Stamp Yourself Merry for the holidays, Saturday, November 21, 12 - 4 PM at my South San Francisco studio. This year make your own greeting cards and gift wrappings with recycled materials, printing screens and my wild collection of rubber stamps. $45 includes all materials. ( If you live in the SF Bay Area,this workshop is available to travel to your house: Invite 8 or more friends, I'll bring everything and you, as host, take the workshop FREE. Call to pick a date, 415-826-8248)

Evening Class:
Print Fabulous Fabrics Wednesday evening class 6:30 - 9 PM. 10 weeks September 16 - December 2. (no class: 11/11, 11/25) Previous art experience isn't required to print up wonderful designs on clothing (including t-shirts) linens, quilting fabrics or just for the fun of creating 'art cloth'. Try out screen printing, marbling, stamping, and table-top monoprinting. Overprint fabrics from the previous week to create fabulous complex patterns. $77 (SSF residents $92) +$25 supply fee includes 2 yards of fabric. 33 Arroyo Dr. at El Camino, South San Francisco. 650-829-3800. Pre-registration required.

NEW! Fiber Art Questions – FAQ
Q: I'm starting to run low on a couple of dye colors I got from you. I was looking at the Dharma Trading website and I saw this:
"News Flash (October 14, 2008): Procion H has been discontinued by the manufacturer due to problems obtaining ingredients. Get what we have left while you can! We now have in stock a replacement from Jacquard called Vinyl Sulphon Liquid Reactive Dye in similar (though fewer) colors and the same concentrations at a much better price! "
Have you heard about this? Should I buy your stock or theirs?
A: Hi Judi,
I am already using the Vinyl Sulphon Liquid Reative Dyes (AKA Remazol) and so are you. I knew that the H dyes were on the way out some time ago, so I switched my stock. I like these new ones better as they seem to hold more color after steaming and rinsing. Don't bother buying the last of the (overpriced) H dyes. I just checked the Dharma website. You can get a better deal on 8 ounces from them for $13.95 than at $7 for 2 ounces from me. They have new colors: navy, magenta and bordeaux, but no brown or leaf green, which I carry. Below is the link to their product information for Vinyl Sulphon (what a mouthful to say). Check my website supplies page for dye kits and refills.
Q: I am going to dye tomorrow and I've lost my instructions for making the urea solution. Please help. I also don't know how long the chemical solution will last after I prepare it. Some friends and I took your class in April at Olive Hyde Art Center. We have been dyeing ever since. Love it! Thanks you!
A: Hi Jill,
This is the most frequently asked question I get. To make chemical water, put1 cup of urea granules in a quart jar, add 1 Tablespoon baking soda. Fill with hot water. Stir until dissolved. It's good until it smells like strong ammonia. (You can then use it diluted to fertilize your garden.) You can easily cut the recipe in half. Some garden supplies sell urea. It was fun teaching you all shibori at Olive Hyde.

Q: On your website I see folks doing silk painting with the silk laying directly on the table, not on a frame. The only method of painting silk I know is to stretch it tightly on a frame which suspends it over the table so it is not touching anything. Is the silk on wax paper or what?
A: Hi Nancy,
You have a sharp eye to notice that the silk is mounted on paper - actually freezer paper – the kind meat is wrapped in at butcher shops. There is a thin layer of plastic on one side of it. With a medium hot iron any silk can be pressed onto that plastic. Move very slowly instead of gliding as when ironing. Stop as soon as the fabric sticks. Over pressing can result in permanent adhesion of the paper – ick. To press a scarf , I work from the center out, pressing the air out as I move, to avoid bubbles. I stay within the rolled edges to avoid the plastic melting onto the sole plate. When I've ironed all I can, I flip the paper/silk over onto an old towel and quickly press the edges. If using silk wider than the 18” paper, I work to the edge of the paper and add another piece behind it overlapping a bit. The heat seals them together. I pull the silk off the paper just before steaming. To keep the unfinished art safe between work sessions, I put a layer of wax paper atop the painting and roll it up. Rolls store in very little space!
Some supermarket chains still carry Reynolds Freezer Paper in their larger stores. It's now about $7 for 150 ft. x 18” roll.

Upcoming exhibits to enter:
This blog is already really long, so look for this feature next time.

Conferences to plan for:
Pattern Design Conference in San Francisco October 2 -4 at the Whitcomb Hotel, (this is clothing patterning, not surface)
Maiwa Textile Symposium in Vancouver, BC. September – November annually

Fiber Art Organization of Interest:
The Textile Arts Council is connected with the de Young Museum in SF. It meets at 10 AM on one Saturday of most months, for presentations in Koret Auditorium at the museum. I always see familiar faces at these meetings. The information is fascinating. The networking is good too.

Upcoming programs: Textiles of Oaxaca with Eric Mindling - September 26
Transordinary Vessels of Emily Dvorin - October 17
The Magic of Indigo with Barbara Shapiro - November 21
The Current Art Quilt Movement with Miriam Nathan Roberts – January 16.
Membership starts $35 ($15 for full time student) which gives, among other benefits, free admission to programs. (Non-members pay $10, museum members $5.)

In September my Tuesday morning Surface Design class will be exploring natural dyes, so I have been seeking information on it. Here are some websites & blogs about natural dyeing, you might find interesting: (Thanks Jan, Toni and Martha for the website referrals) she uses leaves to dye patterns on felt uses natural dyes and clamp shibori on a line of clothing

My big news:
My quilt about Obama's election will be included in a coffee table-type book of art quilts on the subject. It will also be in a traveling exhibit, rumored to be heading for Japan and South Africa among other places. You can see the quilt “Help, Hope & Hallelujah!” on my website and read about how and why I made it, in an archive of quilters' stories: . (See the whole exhibit at This is a breakthrough piece for me. I tried to express my intense feelings of hope and joy about the election in it. It's new for me to go beyond creating nice looking quilts, to consciously putting in my emotions into them.
In other news, my workshop article for Quilters Newsletter Magazine is scheduled to be published in the Dec 09/Jan.2010 issue. (It comes out in November.) It's a “workshop” feature story about how to paint ombre or continuous gradient fat quarters of fabric for quilting. Several of my quilts will be in the story. The editor also want to pattern one of these quilts, called “Raspberry Parfait” for a use in a future issue. I'm also working on a related book Ombre Quilting and on finding a publisher for it.
This spring, for the first time ever, I entered two of my quilts in jurying at the San Francisco Quilters' Guild show. Wild Nasturtiums, took a blue ribbon. It's a whole cloth piece of painted and printed silk. Lattice Leaves, made of my hand dyed and discharged cottons, won a red ribbon . Meanwhile the pizza quilt was sold – all eight slices together, the first time it was in a gallery show. It's been quite a year, so far! You can see the nasturtiums one at . The others will be appearing on my website soon.
I welcome your comments on my new blog and any information for it you'd like to pass along. This first issue is probably too big, but I'm still in quarterly newsletter mode. More (or less) soon.