Prairie Honey Creative: Indigo Shibori

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On my lovely weekend to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park, I had the great fortune to participate in an Indigo Dye and Shibori workshop. Blaine Lunsford, the mastermind behind Prairie Honey Creative, was the alchemist behind this session. I felt as if I was a part of something larger than myself. It was a unique experience that I am not sure how to put into words. But I will try…

Blaine was on site all day and offered a morning session and an afternoon session. I joined the afternoon group of women. It was a group of 10 coming together to create these beautiful and unique rayon shawls. Every person in this group came with intentions to learn, share and support each other in these creations.

We were given the history of indigo and taught about the healing benefits of this ‘Blue Gold’. It is considered a valuable commodity and has been used for centuries. Knowledge of this craft is passed down through the generations and is still used today in many parts of the world. I had read about indigo dying in the Book of Negroes and thought it was only an African craft, what I learned that day was, indigo is found all over the world from Japan and India to Africa and South America. I felt grateful to be a part of this experience that thousands of women used before me.

We began with learning about the vats of dye. The more foam and froth was apparently a good thing. It meant the dye was active and ready to be used on the natural fibres. The smell reminded me of a time and memory I couldn’t place, yet I knew I had smelled it before.

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The women of the group were handed a white shawl and we were instructed to think about how were would use materials to resist the dye. Blaine had everything from marbles and buttons, to clothespins and popsicle sticks. String and clamps were abundant in glass jars found all over the room. I knew instinctively how I was going to create my cloth.

I first set an intention for my cloth to be healing for me. Then I folded my shawl and pleated in an accordian fashion. I staggered clothes pins to create a smocked appearance all over the cloth.

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I was so focused and knew exactly what my plan was, other women explored other mediums and took more time tying and twisting their fabric. Once I was done I joined some other women closer to the vats and we just started sharing stories of our different experiences. Once everyone had completed the first step, Blaine explained the dipping technique.

We were instructed to dip our cloth and leave it in the vat for 10 minutes. Then we would squeeze the excess dye out of the cloth. There were rocks to weigh the cloths down and keep them from floating. Six cloths went into the vat at one time.

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Blaine never dipped on our behalf. She allowed us to have the experience. I suspect it had to do with our energy and intent that we placed on the process. I added an extra step that we didn’t talk about. This past spring I became a Reiki practitioner. I channelled Reiki energy into the dipping process to magnify the energy and healing properties of my shawl.

We let the shawls sit in the indigo dye and when it was time to pull them out, the first dips were green.

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This was completely unexpected by everyone except our knowledgeable alchemist. She explained we needed to rub the garment to allow for oxygen to enter the fabric. The more we rubbed, the bluer the fabric became.

Here are the three stages of oxygenating the fabric.

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It only took minutes for the fabric to go from green to blue. It felt as if it was a living breathing process.

We repeated this process two more times. Dipping, squeezing and rubbing.

While we waited for the dips and drains, the women began to share more and more personal things. One lady explained how her family escaped the war in Central America and how here nephew was murdered in the process. Another woman talked about the loss of her son and how painful it was. Another spoke of her estrangement from her daughter and the stories went on and on. It was a time of healing and sympathy. We all came together to honour each other’s loss and supported each other in healing. It was an incredibly moving experience.

By the last dip, we were all excited to see the wraps unfold. We were told not to expect that we could control the designs. We were to expect to receive the design we needed. As mine unfolded, it looked like tiny fireflies to me. Others looked like hearts or smiles or hugs. All beautiful and all incredibly special.

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As I waved it through the air it became bluer.

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By Sunday night it was a deep indigo blue and I wore it all night. It felt like a warm hug. I have an unexpected attachment to it and plan to wear it often.

The group went out into the sunlight and we held up our shawls for all to see.

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The experience was as powerful as the end product. Blaine does this workshops all over the place, but she will also come to you if you want to organize a private dying session. If you do that, invite me – I really want to experience this again. Tell her I sent you.

You can find her on Instagram @prairiehoneycreative

Thank you, Blaine, for the transformative experience.

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Step by Step Chenille Baby Quilt

I was frustrated with the lack of detailed instructions for making a chenille  baby quilt. Sure I could find all types of instructions, but I wanted information for someone who has never made a quilt before. I never did find one complete with picture and non-quilter lingo.

 

I love the feel of chenille and flannel. For a baby or and young child, these seem like the ideal cuddle blanket. To make the same one I have, you will need the following,

  • 5 meters of flannel – I used the same print for the front and back. When choosing the fabric for the chenille, I pulled colours from the printed fabric so it would coordinate.
  • .5 meter of flannel for the binding. Some people use a satin binding pre-packed from the fabric store. I find satin doesn’t hold up well to many washings. Since this is a baby quilt, it WILL be washed many times over. Flannel is soft too and you have the advantage of using the background fabric or contrast, the choice is unlimited.
  • 1 spool of Mettler No.100 274 meter poly-cotton thread. Old thread sitting in your sewing box will lose it’s integrity and will break frequently. Spring for a new spool.
  • 1 #11 sharp needle for your sewing machine. You may break it, but if it is new it is sharp enough to poke through 5 layers of flannel. Less chance of breakage. You needle dulls over time, so consider changing it after 25 hours of sewing.
  • Rotary cutter or a sharp pair of shears (large scissors used ONLY FOR FABRIC).
  • If using shears, you will need tailors chalk in a colour that contrast with your fabric.
  • Large ruler or omnigrid. I prefer an omnigrid because of the lines to ensure a straight cut.
  • Cutting mat if using a rotary cutter.
  • Binding clips (these look like hair clips – wait they ARE hair clips that I bought at the dollar store!)
  • Safety pins
  • Iron and ironing board
  • obviously a sewing machine – you could hand sew this but I would die of boredom, you good luck to you! I have a walking foot attachment on my machine. You can purchase a roller foot if you don’t have one. It helps to pull all the layers through the machine together at the same rate, so there is less slippage and puckering.
  • Seam guide attachment – this prevents marking the quilt and helps with guiding you to creating a straight seam…helps but you still have to take ownership ūüėČ
  • small thread scissors

 

I didn’t use a quiltbat because flannel is warm. I wanted a floppy feel to the quilt so the child can drag it around like Linus does. If you decide to use a quilt bat, use a thin cotton so shrinkage stays the same. Buy extra needles because 6 layers of fabric is

I had the gal at the fabric store cut my 2m of background fabric in half. Sure I could do it but, why do I want to when she is willing and able? I had her cut the .5 meter separate as well too. Then I knew I could get straight to work.

I never pre-wash anything. Shocking right? There are several reasons for this.

  1. the sizing on the fabric ( its like a starch added to the fabric in production) keeps the fabric stiff and easier to work with, especially cutting!
  2. I like the look of shrinkage after the quilting (quilting is the sewing of the layers together) is done. It wrinkles between the quilting and it makes it look vintage and pre-loved.
  3. Fabric rarely runs any more. I have never had that problem and when I do, I dunk the entire quilt into a tea bath and dye it to even out the colours. Again, a nice vintage look.
  4. When working with raw edge flannel, the more fraying the better.
  5. The binding shrinks at the same rate as the quilt, less pressing (ironing) and sharper corners when mitering.

I layered my fabric on the floor in the following order:

The Quilt base:

  1. Background fabric
  2. Quiltbatting – I omitted this step
  3. Top fabric – Be careful to place these two pieces of fabric WRONG sides together. The good side of the fabric will be on the bottom and on the top. Wrong sides are sandwich together inside the quilt.

The chenille – layered next on top of the “top fabric”

  1. Print – right side down, so the top right side and the print right side are touching. This fabric will be the dominant colour throughout your quilt. Choose wisely.
  2. Second colour – right side down
  3. Third colour – right side up.

Layering is the most important step and crucial to get right. The fabric will not be straight or square. That is okay, we will square it up after sewing the layers together.

Pin all the layers together with safety pins about every 8″ apart.¬† Straight pins will work but they will stab you once you are at the machine. Straight pins will also fall out, jeopardizing the integrity of the carefully matched layers.

For the chenille process to work, you must sew on the bias. The bias is the diagonal direction of the fabric – the stretchy part. I started at the corner and sewed a “straight line” to the other corner. First of all, I did not sew a straight line because I did not mark it out. Secondly, this is not a square quilt so I ‘eyeballed’ it. I am not a perfectionist. The Amish who are near perfect quilters always add a humility block because only God is perfect. So I am lazy AND not perfect. It works for me. The only one who will notice are other quilters, babies don’t care about perfection, they just want to be warm and to be cuddled.

I set the seam guide attachment at one inch from the needle.

Once I had sewn the first seam, I would line that seam up on the elbow of the seam guide and use that as my seam allowance.  I had a quilted seams through 5 layers of fabric every inch. I sewed half the quilt on the diagonal so it appeared to look like a half-square triangle (half the quilt = triangular quilt lines). The other half of the quilt I sewed perpendicular to the original quilt seams.

Once the sewing was complete, I cut the top 3 layers of the fabric between the seam lines. You can purchase a chenille cuter from Olfa, but for $56 I figured I could use my scissors. Be careful to only cut the top 3 layers or you will cut your quilt in to strips and have to start all over again. I am happy to report I did it correctly!

 

It was at this point when I thought i should have set my seam guide to 3/4″, the chenille would have been shorter and closer together. However, i do like the finished product of being able to see the top or background fabric.
After cutting, i used my Omni Grid Large Square to cut and square off the quilt. At some sections of the quilt I had cut off a good 1 1/2″. The important part is to have the sides fairly straight and the corners true. This makes a difference when sewing on the binding. I have seen many demos where a dinner plate is used to round the corners. People tend to do that when they are unsure of how to miter a corner. Don’t worry, I have your back. I’ll show you how.

The Double Fold Binding

I use a double fold binding to had body and weight to the quilt, and it is a more durable option for quilts that will be laundered frequently.

I carefully folded my 1/2m with salvage edges together (the edges of the fabric that is finished from the factory, not the cut edge from the store). I line up the salvages and cut them off and discard.

Then I measure a two inch strip and cut using the rotary cutter. I cut 6 of these strips. You really only need 5 and a bit for this size quilt, but I like to have lots of extra for the mitered corners.

Piece together the 6 strips of 2″ flannel so you have a very long single piece of binding.

Fold fabric in half so you have a 1″ narrow binding and press. (Press not iron because you do not want to stretch or shrink your binding before it gets on the quilt)

Finger pin (because I hate the extra step of real pins, I just hold it with my fingers) the raw edge of the binding to the raw edge of the TOP of the quilt.

Start about 6″ away from the corner. Never start the binding at the corner.It is easier to hide the extra fabric of¬† the finished binding on the side of a quilt rather than the corner. Sew the binding using the edge of your pressure foot as the seam guide around the raw edge of the quilt top. Ensure the pressed fold is “elbow” down. Once you meet the beginning of the binding, fold the start over about 1/2″ and continue to sew the binding over top for about an inch. it will be bulkier but there will be no raw edges and thus will be a sturdier binding.

Fold the binding over the the edge using the pressed elbow crease at the cover of the quilted layers. The pressed crease should fit over the edge of the quilt giving it a finished look.

Flip over the quilt to the backside.

Fold the raw edge of the binding under towards the pressed crease. Using binding clips hold the binding in place, ready for a blind hem stitch.

 

The Mitered Corner

There is a trick to it and if you are able to watch a video it might make more sense. To me a mitered corner is what sets quilts apart. It has a polished and professional look.

Sew your seam and stop 1/4″ from the edge of the corner. If you are using the pressure foot as your seam allowance, it is that distance you need to stop from the edge of the quilt.

Back stitch to lock your stitches and keep the binding secure.

Insert a pin on the diagonal from the corner. This will be the miter guide.

Fold the fabric up allowing it to be guided by the pin.

Remove pin and hold in place with your fingers. Fold fabric back down along side the edge of the fabric  Рbe careful not to lose the mitered fold.

Sew from the edge of the binding and back-stitch to lock into place. Keep sewing and repeat steps for every corner.

Flip binding over the quilt. Use a blind stitch to secure the miter.

If this is your first mitered corner, you should practice on scrap until you have the hang of it. Then do it on the big quilt. I have a practice sample I made the mitered corner, complete with my hand writing all over it with tips and tricks notes for me.

Once the binding is completed, hand stitch the backside with a blind stitch.

Trim all your threads and get ready for the fun part.

This is my completed pre-washed quilt. You can see slight ruffles starting to happen. You will notice at the top the yellow ends and the green begins. I didn’t pay attention to the width of the fabric. The yellow was a smaller width from the rest. I used it anyways and I liked the colour variation it gave.

I washed and dried it using regular soap and fabric softener. Then dried it twice in the tumble dryer. Being so thick it needed two dry cycles.

Once I removed it, I cut all the loose threads. It stopped being so yellow and the plaid of the under-fabric became the main colour. Here is a close up of the chenille.

After holding this quilt for a while, I entertained the thought of making a larger one for cold winter movie nights. Likely won’t happen, but who knows?

It took me 4 hours to sew and cut the quilt and 2 hours to bind it. I did it over a two-day period. The closer together the chenille, the more sewing involved. That is what takes the time – and all the cutting. The more frequent the washing, the softer it gets.

So tell me, have you made one? How did it go?

I use to do what?

I use to be a quilter. In fact, I use to teach quilting and I would sell quilts. I would dream of fat quarters, have a stash that rivaled the best fabric shops, and when on vacation I would purchase fabric from other countries. Quilter’s cotton is luscious to my finger tips. This summer there are 5 baby boys who will make an appearance. I love babies until they reach 3 months old. Then I do not have much use for them until they turn 4. I like 4 year olds, they remind me of me.

This was the summer I was going to make 5 baby quilts and see if I could become a quilter again. The answer is… no, I am no longer a quilter. I treasure the quilts I have made, but I¬† am pretty sure I will not go all crazy bananas over fabric anymore. I even spent some time in a quilt shop to feel inspiration, but the fabric didn’t appeal to me. It was as if I was stuck in a time warp of old fabric. I can’t get past the stuff I loved and give it up for the new patterns and design. There is a box in my garage of UFO’s. To my space loving son, those are aliens, to my quilty friends, those are UnFinished Objects.

I went and unearthed the box. It was covered in an inch of dirt and dust. When I opened it, the first thing I saw was my accreditation for work…cool I wondered where that was. I found blocks from quilt exchanges I could never part with. I also found lovely tops. This makes me want to find a quilter who will sandwich the layers together and so I can bind it. I just don’t have the desire to quilt the layers anymore.

Digging through the box, I was surprised to discover fabric. Untouched, uncut fat quarters. Several years ago I gave away my entire stash of fabric to Make-A-Wish foundation. There are a couple of ladies who make quilts for the Northern Alberta Chapter. Their goal is to give ever child who gets a wish, a quilt made by their hands. I gave them blocks and tops and four giant blue bags filled with fabric. I felt good about Wish Kids getting to enjoy quilts with a little bit of me in there. So looking at the fat quarters, I wondered what my plan was. I have enough fabric to make a charming Christmas Quilt, but…. naaaaaaaaa. After digging out all my tops and blocks I realized I kept the ones that meant something to me.

  1. The Halloween Strip quilt top, I purchased the fabric on a visit to meet a quilty friend in California.
  2. Dresden Plate, This is nearly finished being quilted, Sadly I am not skilled enough – not do I have the tools to finish it.
  3. Maple Leaf Top from a quilt exchange.
  4. Rows from a Round Robin I participated in.
  5. Scrap Half Square Triangles from the first class I ever took and an assortment of other UFOs.

The box also contained a Debbie Mum box that held my notions. I was delighted to discover my betweens, tiny precious needles for hand quilting, applique and binding. My thimble collection was also there. I have a Charles and Diana thimble from a trip to England just before the couple was married. That made me laugh.

Chatterbox a wants the Halloween Top so she can learn to hand quilt. She can have that one. The rest? I need to find a quilter who will take pity on me and help me finish these. Meanwhile, I have a baby quilt to finish for my beautiful grandnephew.

What you SHOULD do for Mother’s Day, I double dog dare you.

Last week I gave you a list of things you should not do for mothers day. Mostly because in my past I was the giver of those types of offerings. Not cool I know, but I blame my dad.

Okay, maybe that isn’t fair either. I have no excuse, I was just thoughtless. Perhaps I wasn’t as thoughtful as I could have been.

I am now a changed woman! Motherhood did that for me. I am envious of those of you who already own the thoughtful gene. It has been work for me, but I am now considered in some circles as thoughtful. About time too, I am now middle aged. I am a slow learner.

To be fair, I often had my thoughtful moments, but my taste wasn’t always appropriate.

When I was 5 I was crafter extraordinaire. I recycled junk and made the most amazing things. I often would take empty tissue boxes and create stunningly hip and fabulous, not to mention groovy, Barbie furniture. Between you and me and the hundreds of people reading this, I never waited for the tissue box to be empty. I emptied it myself, then needed to find a way to dispose of the stack of 4″ tissues without being caught by my mother or grandmother, better known as the Tissue Gestapo.

Sometimes the tissues would be blankets for my Barbies. Sometimes I would use a hair elastic and make Barbie ball gowns with the tissue. I would juggle 3 pieces at a time (my brother taught me how – he can juggle anything). And sometimes I would make bouquets of flowers. Those were the days when tissues would come in UNenvironmentally friendly pretty colours such as pink or blue. The 70’s was bad for the environment but all about clashing colour! For a 5 year old, this was awesome! 5 year olds think all colour works together, and are willing to prove it to the world!

I knew Mother’s Day was approaching because I am thoughtful like that my Kindergarten Teacher told me. We had made cards in school with our handprints on them. I thought my mom should have a gift too because she was the best mom ever! When I caught a salmon, she buried it under our tree to make it grow. Okay, it wasn’t a salmon it was a jackfish – grandpa lied. When I brought home cases of artwork to show her, she placed it in a special spot in the attic for my kids. I learned years later the the “Attic” was a euphemism for “the farm where puppies for to die play”. She always had my hair cut short for ease of care. This required bows be sewn on my undershirts to PROOVE I was a girl. Very thoughtful of her to make sure I had bows on those shirts…my mom WAS THE BEST!

Now because she was the best, I thought long and hard about an appropriate gift. I looked at my stack of tissue, multi colour of course. and decided I would use the same technique I used previously in bouquet making and make a corsage for church! She would LOVE it!!!!

I would explain to you how to make it but it’s too confusing…google is your friend.

All I am going to say is MY flower was bigger and more… more… um… bigger! Than those flowers you can make via those websites. My flower came with a safety pin so my mom could pin it to her dress Sunday morning and show it off to all the other moms and prove to those moms that HER daughter loved her best!

I know you must be weeping with sentiment at this moment and possibly regret because you weren’t as thoughtful as me. It’s not too late. You can make your mom a beautiful tissue flower too. In fact, I double dog dare you.

The Edmonton Tourist contributes a weekly colum every Monday to the Scarecrow Festival in support of ABC Head Start. This mother’s day post was originally published here¬† at the Edmonton Scarecrow Festival.