2017 is pretty much locked in

15 01 2017

Each year, December and January is our theoretical slower time.  A time to review, organise, plan and recharge.  This is the period each year where the craft shows are not on and generally the teaching program winds down.  In truth, it is often a busier time as I generally plan to do a lot in this available time.  New classes are organised, proposals submitted, stock is counted and organised, the dyeing and manufacturing schedule is set up and all the day to day admin that slips through the cracks gets caught up.  This year has been even busier as there have been some big things to work through and sort out.

By mid January each year, the year is usually fully booked and locked down.  This year is no exception with the show schedule finalised for the year.  I will still slot other events into the spaces and have availability for teaching in and around these events, but here is where you can expect to see me this year.  I first is less than four weeks away, oh my.

houston-booth

Toowoomba Craft Alive – 10th to 12th February

Knitting and Stitching Show Olympia, London – 2nd to 5th March

Dubbo Craft Alive – 9th to 12th March

Rockhampton Craft Alive – 17th to 19th March

Canberra Craft Alive – 5th to 7th May

Bendigo Craft Alive – 16th to 18th June

Wodonga Craft Alive – 7th to 9th July

Sewing Stitching and Needlecraft Show Adelaide – 14th to 16th July (to be confirmed)

Festival of Quilts Birmingham – 10th to the 13th August

Tamworth Craft Alive – 8th to 11th September

Knitting and Stitching Show Alexandra Palace, London – 11th to 15th October

Quilt Festival Houston – 1st to 5th November

Craft Alive Logan – 10th to 12th November

 

In addition to the places you can see us face to face, we have our online classes. Enrollments are open now and introductory exercises are currently live in all three classes.  I have three starting in the next few weeks.

Dragonfly fabric small

 

 

Stunning Surfaces – a comprehensive surface design class – starts February 4th

http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/p/9109063/online-class—stunning-surfaces-art-cloth-2017.html

 

 

 

AQC1 - Under the Watch of our Ancestors

 

 

Tremendous Textiles   – an Art Quilt workshop – starts Ffebruary 18th

http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/p/9144486/online-class—tremendous-textile-art-techniques-2017.html

 

 

 

and

linen-12

 

Almost Alchemy – a very comprehensive fabric dyeing class – starts 4th March

http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/p/9122334/online-class—almost-alchemy—dyeing-for-the-traditional-and-art-quilter—2017.html

 

 

 

In addition to this, I have the great honor of being part of a second international collaboration.  I am part of the second Fiber Art Connection with four other amazing textile artists:  Desiree Habicht, Lenore Crawford, Lisa Chin, and Libby Williamson.  I will share more of this as we get closer, but check out the details here:  http://www.fiberartconnection.com/

If you are part of a group or guild that would like me to come and run workshops or a talk, please contact me, particularly if I am already going to be somewhere near you.  All of my face to face classes can be tailored to the individual group needs.

See you somewhere soon.

Cecile





The great destash – step one of finally getting the ‘studio’ sorted.

8 01 2017

It is easy to get distracted.  It is easy to let the urgent overtake the important and be driven by deadlines rather than setting up the foundations that will make meeting the urgent and the deadlines easier.  Too easy to find excuses and to procrastinate.  I have been very guilty of this on a number of levels, but my own personal work space has been ignored and it has made life challenging at times.  This is not the first time I have written about this and I am sure it will not be the last.  In March 2015, I posted this blog post:  https://uniquestitching.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/okay-i-am-outing-myself/.  I brought it up again early last year and still have done nothing about making this space work.

In fact, a couple of days ago this area was a far worse mess than even the 2015 photos can show.  Despite numerous visits to websites about organisation, I remained very unmotivated.  One of the issues holding me back was an unwillingness to part with ‘precious’ fabrics.  As you all know, I dye a lot of fabulous fabrics.  Every time I dye a full batch of any one fabric, I have left overs and scraps and I have always kept these for me.  Over the years, that has added up to a lot of fabric, most of which I can not even find.  Everything I read about organisation indicated that you ‘can’t sort clutter, you have to get rid of it’.  EEK.  I DON’T WANT TO.  It is mine.  So for the last few years, I have been avoiding the inevitable; much of the fabrics must go and then I have a hope of organising the space.  And I still don’t want to.  Anyway, long story short, 2017 is going to be about doing a lot of what has been put off so the obvious place to start was here.

One box at a time, I started sorting.  The first task was to get all the like types of material into one spot.  Despite trying to keep all the bits in some sort of sensible order, things did not always go where they should have.  We opened over twenty boxes, bags and baskets and do you know what I found.  There was at least one piece of velvet in every single on of them.  I was a little horrified at the volume of fabric we unearthed.

Here is what some of the boxes looked like:

boxes-2boxes-1boxes-3

 

 

The first one is just Silk Georgette and Velvets.   The second is silks, cotton scrim, hessian and other ‘bits’ while the third is  wool felt and woven wools. Not shown in these photos are all the hand dyed fibres:  silks and wool in particular.  Each of those categories covered the table by themselves.

 

 

 

This does not even begin to look at the hand dyed cottons and linens.  Oh my.

It took a few days, but I eventually sorted all of this into colourways and filled up over 100 different scrap bags.

scrim-all velvet-all

 

 

These photos show the cotton scrim and the velvet as I sorted them.

 

 

 

 

In the end, I have them all on the website, selling them out cheaply.  The best news is that I now can walk all the way around my cutting bench and machine table; clear carpet is visible though it still needs vacuuming.  I have a long way to go, but I am so very happy to have started.  I have discovered, much to my shock, that parting with this fabric did not, in fact, cause me any lasting harm and I know that those who have bought the packs I have sold already are getting great joy from them.

Here are some examples of what the packs ended up looking like.

scrim-3 velvet-3 wool-3 wool-7

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of the packs have been snapped up very quickly, but if you would like to help me in the great de-stash, you can see what remains here:

http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/c/4560390/1/clearance.html

I will continue to share my progress on this space.





The lull before the storm – ice dyeing in preparation

1 01 2017

2016 has not been my favourite year.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been some amazing highlights and I cherish those, but the negative has far outweighed the positive and in true Murphy’s style: if it could go wrong, it did; if it could break, it did; if someone had the power to let you down or worse, they did; but I am not going to dwell on what is past and what can not be changed.

I have never chosen a word for the year before, but for 2017, I am focussing on consolidation.  I want to bed down all the half finished from 2016 and build the platform for the next few years.  As such I have spent the time between Christmas and New Year building a plan.  I have even taken the unprecedented step of getting some help.  I don’t generally do New Years resolutions and this year is no different, but I am going to work with the resources of The Business Bakery and work in three lots of 100 day goals for this year.  I am telling you this because it is supposed to help keep me accountable if I tell people what I am doing.  So, here I go.  If you want to find out more about the structure, go here:

http://www.thebusinessbakery.com.au/100-day-goal/

I have a lot of work to do to get everything back on an even keel, but I am nothing if not resilient.  I am not going to share the content of the goals until they are close to realised, but I can share the steps along the way.  To keep me sane this week amongst all the admin and as one of the micro actions I need to take, I have ice dyed some fabric.

Ice dyeing in Australia in 30+ degree heat produces very different results to when it is done in the middle of winter or in snow.  This is because of the chemistry of the dyes and mordants.  So, the traditional outputs of ice or snow dyeing is usually soft, gentle colours.  In this heat, despite the dye being carried through the fabric by the melting ice, the dye has high temperatures to ‘batch’ in, so the colour is still strong and vibrant.  (If you want to understand this and learn how to dye, check out my Almost Alchemy dyeing class:  http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/p/9122334/online-class—almost-alchemy—dyeing-for-the-traditional-and-art-quilter—2017.html).

So, in some ways ice dyeing in heat does not give you very different results to other dyeing techniques due to the hot batching.  What you do get though is unpredictable randomness and I am a big fan of unpredictable randomness.  I have folded some of these pieces, shibori style, and others I have just scrunched, but the random effect is perfect as the first layer of fabric for a couple of projects I will work on this month.  Here are the six fabrics.  They are all fat quarter cotton homespun (muslin in US terms).

ice-6

ice-1

ice-2

ice-3

ice-4

ice-5

I will try to share what I do with these as I go.





Cocoons – they are multiplying – I am sure

14 09 2016

I have been dyeing various silk products for over ten years now and never cease to be amazed at how well the colour is absorbed by the silk fibre.  Each different silk ‘bit’ has different dye absorption – more or less dye sites for the dye to lock onto and each, therefore, is a little bit different, even when dyed in the same dye bath.

Silk fibre is an animal or protein fibre, so generally would be dyed most effectively with acid dyes.  These dyes need to be boiled or steamed to create the reaction and to set the dye.  That does not work with the cocoons very well as a cocoon still contains the sericin – the protein that makes the cocoon hard and strong.  When cocoons are processed into silk fibre, they are boiled or at least softened in very hot water to break down the sericin and release the fibre, ready to be spun.  If the hard cocoons are boiled or heated extensively in the dyeing process, there is a strong likelihood that the cocoon will loose the sericin and thereby damaged.  For this reason, I use Procion dyes which are generally optimal for cellulose or plant based fibres, but work well on silk too.  Procion dyes are a cold water process so the risk of breaking down the sericin is almost non existent.  You may often read that you need to use an acidic mordant with the Procion dyes on silk, but I still use soda ash – an alkaline and it works fabulously.  Here are some photos and a brief description of my process.

cocoons-1

I get these in big boxes, by the kilogram.  They are not yellow, this was a product of the flash on the camera. The cocoons come cut.  This means that the original occupant is no longer in situ, which is a good thing.  Cut cocoons clear customs much faster than uncut ones and are generally cleaner, though you pay more for them due to the processing.  Once I have these, I work out how many colourways I need to dye and how much, weight wise, required to dye each colourway.  I then take the cocoons and weigh them into bags:  one bag per colour needed.  My cocoons are sold in mixed packs of three colours, so what ever I do needs to be divisible by 3.  In the case of this dye run, I needed to do ten colour ways, so 30 different colours in total, so 30 different bags of cocoons.

cocoons-2

I mix my dyes and pour them into each bag, sealing the bags as I go.  Each bag gets about a litre of dye and I move it around to try to give all the cocoons a fairly even coverage.  Consistency in colour and coverage is not essential to me in this process, but I do like them all to be well coloured and the colour saturated.

After the dyeing and batching is completed, I rinse them in warm water until the water runs clear.  When the rinse water is clear, it indicates that all of the dye molecules are either permanently locked into the silk fibre cells or flushed out in the rinse water.  Here are some of my colours soaking.

cocoons-3

If you look closely, you can see that they are in sets of three as I try to keep my colourways together.

I dry these one of two ways, sometimes in a combination of both.  Firstly, if the weather is good, I put them in fabric bags and hang them on the line, again keeping the sets of three together as best I can.

cocoons-4

If weather and space allows, depending on how much I have dyed, I spread the cocoons out in baskets, on netting and even on old screen doors to dry.  This takes up a lot of space if I do all the colourways and will only work on warm, dry days.  It is not uncommon for every horizontal space in the house to be covered with trays of drying cocoons when the weather won’t play nicely with me.

cocoons-5

Once completely dry, I combine the three colourways in a big tub, remove knotted or loose silk fibre and give them a big mix.

cocoons-6

cocoons-7

This is the “Cools” colourway.  From there, they are weighed very carefully into 10 gram lots and packaged into either cellophane bags or clear pillow packs.  Every pack is a little bit different.  They are not easy to photograph in the pillow packs, but they look terrific like this.

cocoons-8

I get asked constantly what to do with them.  Well, the short answer is anything your feel like.  You can stitch onto and through them, so they can be embellished and sewn to anything, strung up or added to pretty much any project that you think would benefit from three dimensional elements.  Try embroidering or beading into them, adding them to embroidery or felt projects, turning them into flower buds, snails, fairy skirts, and so much more.  Add them to collage or sculptures, or like the example below, make jewellery.  There is no limit to how you can use them; only a lack of ideas.  Here is a very simple necklace I made.

cecile-whatman-qe-3-cocoon-necklace

I have fifteen different colourways, all of which are on my website – http://www.uniquestitching.com.au.  Search for cocoons if you want to have a look.





Ice Dyeing with Procion Dyes

14 03 2016

I love dyeing fabric.  I do, I just love it.  I could easily spend all my waking time making things colourful with dye and yet, I have resisted the growing trend of ice dyeing until quite recently.  Why have I avoided it? Why have I ice dyed lately? Let me explain.

What is it?

My observation is that ice dyeing morphed out of snow dyeing.  Snow dyeing became a thing when the dyers in the Northern hemisphere started experimenting on how they could feed their dyeing addiction in the middle of great drifts of snow.   Snow or ice dyeing gives a very different effect than the traditional Procion dyeing techniques.  The chemistry is a bit ‘wrong’ and on one level, does not make a huge amount of sense.  As a result, ice dyeing gives softer, more drifty colours.  Also, the dye powder is dispersed by the melting ice, the colour distribution can be very loose and ad hoc; organic almost.  It is an interesting technique to play with.

Why I avoided it.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • it does not feel safe – measuring out large amounts of dry dye powder and leaving it on top of the ice until it melts means that lots of loose dye particles can become airborne;
  • it is not very efficient – you use more dye to get a less vibrant effect than all the more common techniques;
  • it can be costly – both in dye and ice.  Unless you have a large ice making capacity and don’t have access to lots of snow, you will go through a lot of ice and it can add up.

Why I gave it a go.

I have seen the results others were getting and they can be very beautiful.  Ice dyeing has become very popular in the tie dyeing community.  I am not a fan of the full on, 1970s tie dyed mandalas, etc, but I do like a slightly modified, less planed version of ‘tie dyeing’.  (And I don’t actually tie unless I am doing shibori as this creates work)

This post is not going to be a comprehensive tutorial on the technique, but I do want to show you the results I got.

Fold, scrunch, pleat or bundle your fabric or items to be dyed.  Place on a rack of some sort with a vessel underneath to catch melting dye.

ice dye process 1

If you want to, create a cuff either with your bucket/vessel or with foil.

ice dye process 2

Cover in ice.

ice dye process 3

Cover with dye.

ice dye process 4

Walk away and leave it alone until all the ice has melted and the dye distributed.  I left each batch over night and rinsed out the next morning.

Here are some of my results.

ice dye romper 3

blue rompers

ice dye romper 4

If you would like to learn a lot more about dyeing fabric, check out my very comprehensive Almost Alchemy online dyeing class.  We start with Ice Dyeing.  Details can be found here:

http://www.uniquestitching.com.au/p/9122334/online-class—almost-alchemy—dyeing-for-the-traditional-and-art-quilter.html





I am part of the Fibre Art Connection – and a blog hop!

8 03 2016

Hello again.  Two days in a row.  I will blog more, I will blog more, I will blog more.  I promise.

Yesterday’s post was all about the past.  Today’s is about the immediate future.

Today is my turn to be part of the Fiber Art Connection Blog Hop.  Hooray.  I am so honoured to be part of this group.  It is proof that opportunity opens up more opportunity.  I would not be part of this group if I did not meet Desiree when filming QATV.  I would not have filmed QATV if I did not meet and get to know Susan Brubaker Knapp (and take her to the zoo to see Platypus).  I would not have meet Susan if I did not bring Judy Coates Perez to Australia and so it goes.  Life is full of opportunities and you must seize them.

So I really hope that you will want to be part of the Fiber Art Connection.  Who knows where it will take you….

Fiber-Art-Connection logo

http://www.fiberartconnection.com

Desiree’s vision is that this forum is a completely new type of online class, it’s taught by a group of amazing (if I do say so myself!) fibre artists and we want to build a community.  There are 10 weeks in the session, each week a different teacher runs a different class, with material presented across the week. Format for each class is determined by the teacher and will vary.  There’s a great FAQ here: that explains how it works. Your access to all the content never expires, but our intention is to provide 3 months of artist synergy and inspiration to the members of the class, so jump in and get started.

Registration CLOSES on March 15, you must be registered by then in order to be a student in Session 1!  Don’t miss out.

So, I am about half way through the blog hop.  If you have not looked at what the others are doing, it is not too late.  Just follow the links below and learn more about some amazing women artists.  How cool is it that I can share amazing women on International Women’s day!  I tell you.  My life is charmed.

Blog Hop Schedule:

The Blog Hop is about more than just meeting new artists.  We want you to find out about our course and if you can, join. We also would like your help in sharing the information and excitement.  So, we have put together an phenomenal bundle of goodies.  Each of us have put in a big pile of textile art materials which will support all the classes or any project.  This bundle is amazing and you will want to win it.  You can enter to win in a number of ways:

  1. Join the online community, registering for the classes – MUST be before 15th March or you will miss out;
  2. Leave a comment at the end of this blog post;
  3. Share this post or course details on your own social media and tell us (here works) that you have done it

You can comment or share up until midnight US time 14th March 2016.  To make it easier for you, I have added a comment question at the bottom of this post.  Here is a picture of the bundle. Don’t you want it?  I know I do.

FAC-basket-horizontal-500

 

If you want more information on what we are doing, go to the website: http://www.fiberartconnection.com

So, now a bit about me.

1) What draws you to the fibre arts? Why do you work the way you do?

I LOVE the freedom and creativity of fibre art.  I love to use paint and dye to create a unique surface or background.  I love to draw inspiration from nature and reflect the world as I see it.  I love that I can use fabric and fibre to tell a story, make a statement, express myself.  I also love traditional and modern quilting.  I like the maths and precision in that, but I love the FREEDOM of textile art.  I started hand dyeing wool and silk fibre and fabrics such as silks and velvets (and felt and wool and anything else that does not move fast enough) because I wanted my colours, my way.  I wanted texture and I wanted it all at my finger tips NOW.  Creating layers and texture, that gets my blood flowing!

2) Tell us about your studio! Where in the world is it? Is it clean or messy? Is it hidden away or out in the open?

Firstly, I live in Canberra, Australia.  Most of you in the US will not have heard of it and I do intend to make you feel shame (in the nicest possible way) by pointing out that Canberra is our nation’s capital. Look it up.  It is a fabulous place to live.  By car, we are about 3 hours south west of Sydney and 8 hours north east of Melbourne. (Remember that Australia is an equivalent size to continental USA.)  See the A on the map below.  We are at the gateway to the Australian snow fields (truly, we do get some snow) and about two hours to glorious beaches.  Canberra is a great place to live and has been voted the most liveable city in the world by the OECD.  We actually don’t want people to know that as we like things here just the way they are.

canberra

My studio is my great disgrace.  We moved house 15 or so months ago and my studio space looked like this.

?????????? ?????????? ??????????

It still does!  So I pretty much work everywhere in the house.  There are two rooms dedicated to my younger son which are out of bounds to me and our bedroom is seldomly used.  I have been known to rinse metreage of hessian/burlap in the bathroom, but mainly I keep that clear, but all other space and surfaces are fair game.

As I am running numerous online classes using dyes and paints, I have set up an outside work area to film these and keep the place clean.  I like it out there as I am surrounded by my roses and sunflowers.

3) What’s your favourite colour and why?

Oh my.  That is an impossible question to answer.  I love all the colours.  I dye my fabrics and fibres in over 40 colourways because I keep coming up with one I can’t live without.  I do like red for myself.  I wear a lot of reds; from pale pink to burgundy.  Some days I am very drawn to cool blue/green/violet colourways and am increasingly finding myself drawn to autumn tones and neutrals, but seriously there is no colour I can’t find a role for.

4) Tell us about the class you’re teaching in The Fiber Art Connection. What do you hope your students will learn from this?

I am teaching Riverbed.  I mentioned earlier that I draw a lot of inspiration from nature.  I love to capture life in art and I mean life in all of its non animal glory.  I grew up in far north Queensland, near the Northern Territory border.  (Mount Isa, Qld for those of you who want to Google it.)  This is very much our ‘bush’ or ‘outback’.  Not ‘country’ or farming, there is not enough water to grow much other than beef.  This is mining country – copper, lead, zinc and silver to be exact.  So, from the my earliest memories, a sense of country has shaped my identity.

So, Riverbed is a class on capturing your environment.  You can change the colours to suit your environment.  The sample, below, shows the colours I photographed in the Snowy Mountains whilst on holiday one time.

021

You can’t always get fabric the way you want it, so I show you how to make your own from silk and wool fibre.  I also show you how to make depth and three dimension with a range of embellishments.  I want you to experiment with things you may never have used and start to imagine the potential.  Step outside the comfort zone and you will be amazed at what you can do.

5) Where else can we find you on the internet?

I am all over the internet, lol.  Here are some:

  1. Website:  http://www.uniquestitching.com.au
  2. Blog:  you are here.
  3. Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/uniquestitching
  4. or : http://www.facebook.com/mixedmediamayhem

I am also running these online classes – details can be found on my website:

  • Almost Alchemy – Dyeing with Procion Dyes
  • Stunning Surfaces – A surface design masterclass and
  • Tremendous Textile Arts Techniques – an art quilt journey.

I am on Twitter and Instagram too, but not very good on either so join me on Facebook or this Blog.

Please leave a comment.  If you would like to, I would love to know what sort of environment you would like to capture in textile art.





Textile Art Retrospective – where did this all begin?

7 03 2016

I am in the process of finalising all the content for my first online comprehensive textile art class.  As I build the structure for the material, I find myself thinking back on the journey that bought me here.  Like many of you, I started sewing in my teens, did a lot of traditional hand embroidery and in the early 1990’s, morphed into patchwork when my babies came along.  In 2001, Unique Stitching was launched as a traditional patchwork business.  A number of issues brought me to the art quilt world.  First amongst them was a restlessness that made me want to try different things coupled with a strong sense of independence, demanding that I find my own style.  When I then could not find materials I wanted or if I found them the pricing was outrageous due to monopolies or restrained trade arrangements, I became determined to source and create my own products.

In 2005, I brought in Procion dyes and started dyeing ‘speciality’ fabrics: velvets, wools, silks and a world of different fibres.  At the end of 2005, I created my first sets of creative embroidery packs containing hand dyed velvet, silk jacquard, silk top, cocoons and thread.  I could have kissed the first person to buy one of my packs, such was my relief, at the Brisbane Craft and Quilt show where I launched that range.

In 2007, I launched the Art Quilt Collection (AQC).  This was the first time in Australia, and possibly the world, where there was a monthly mail out of textile art materials.  Each pack had a product, an explanation of that product and how to use it plus a simple project to create. Since that time, many have adapted my idea in different ways.  I had no idea what I had started, but it was clear that my future was definitely more on the art side of the page.  When I launched AQC, I hoped to get about 25 people to sign up.  In 2009, when we peaked at over 2500 participants and I was spending three weeks out of every four preparing the packs, I decided it was time to move on.

Since that time, we have expanded our ranges; I have taught around the world; been published in Quilting Arts Magazine; and been on QATV in the US.  It is a charmed life.  Now I want to spend a bit more time at home and the future for sharing what I know is increasingly teaching: face to face and online.

I hope that you can join me as this year will see lots of exciting online offerings, from me as well as a collective I am part of.  To find out more about my first Textile Art online class, go here:  http://tinyurl.com/z5ewlbg

Tomorrow I will talk about the Fiber Art Connection as it will be my day on our Blog Hop.

In the meantime, I want to share a few pieces of my first Art Quilt series.  This was part of my AQC work and mainly focused on manipulating and distressing fabric, with stress and heat.  This is now only one of many tools I use and each piece is a small, simple example, but it is nice to look back on.  This is not the full series, but gives you a sense.  It has an environmental theme.

AQC1 - Under the Watch of our Ancestors

Under the Watch of our Ancestors

AQC2 - Acid Rain

Acid Rain

AQC3 - Home in a Concrete Jungle

Home in a Concrete Jungle

AQC4 - Through Rose Coloured Glasses

Through Rose Coloured Glasses

AQC7 - Interconnectedness

Interconnectedness

AQC5 - Erosion

Erosion (the lighting on this is not very good, sorry)

AQC6 - Cellular Breakdown

Cellular Breakdown