Monday, June 10, 2024

Untitled, Part 5

Untitled, Part 5
the dyeing and wax removal

One of the most rewarding parts of batik is applying the dye, and it was finally time! 

First was deciding how many of each little square I would need in each color.  For the yellow, I only needed 6, but I made a few extra.  And, for my special 6, I wanted them to each have different colors for the motifs.  And, for the motif to show, I would not select any of the same color as the dye used at this point. So, I selected anything but yellow.  Since I needed so few pieces, I cut off the 6 individual squares from the pages, which left me with quite small pieces to work with. Here they are after boiling out the wax, rinsing, and hanging on the line outside.
The greens were slightly bigger.  I was able to cut off strips from the pages.  I would need a little over 100 for the project, so I was able to sample most of the colors.  
The aqua colors were even bigger pieces because I needed over 300 of those.  The cut out shapes are getting bigger and odder.  However, when I finally got to the quilting stage of this project, it would become so much easier with larger pieces and less edges.  The tiny yellows would be the hardest to quilt, and the biggest pieces became the easiest ones to quilt.  So, I was trying to optimize area, and minimize the size of the edges. 
Last will be the bright blue dyes. I needed over 700 of these little square motifs. And these were the biggest part of the pages that I prepared. They also took up the most room on my dyeing surface, a reclaimed sliding glass door. This took many days because there was a lot of work, and relatively little surface area to do the dyeing. I arranged the pieces flat on the glass surface and applied the dye with a big paint brush. The brushing of the dye also allowed me to brush out air bubbles that invariably arise. The wax on the fabric puffs up a bit thicker than the surrounding fabric. Those air bubbles can cause some interesting texture when dyeing, but that is not the look I was looking for here. 
The dyeing surface, with wax and dye still on the pages.

Note the difference between the above photo and the one below it.  The lower photo has the wax boiled out and the fabric has been rinsed and is drying on the line.  All the colors finally pop!

After all the dyes had been applied, each page is left to process overnight, and then rinsed with water multiple times.  Next is the wax removal. That part is done in a giant pot of boiling water on my stove in my kitchen.  This was a really big project and it took many days to boil out all the wax. Each piece is slowly lowered into the giant pot of boiling water and swished around with tongs.  Then it is slowly lifted out of the water in an attempt to avoid the wax floating on the surface.  I have a few tricks to help with that!  

I was able to boil out 4 or 5 pages of work before the water became too concentrated with excess dye.  Then each fabric page was taken outside and dried on the line and rinsed again with water from a hose.  This is the stage where you can feel and see any clumps of residue wax and it just rolls off the surface when brushed with your hand.  Next they were washed with soap and hot water in my washing machine, and then dried again.  I also let my big pots of boiling water cool before disposal, because then I can skim the wax off the surface of the water before tossing the water down the drain.  I didn't want the wax clogging up my drains! ps. It takes a long time for a giant pot of water to cool...

Finally my stack of fabrics to make the project!

Monday, June 03, 2024

Untitled, Part 4

Untitled, Part 4

Dyeing Experiments and the Project Interruption by the Decaying Deck...sigh....
Summer 2022

Except for the size of this project and the vast amounts of repetition, the dyeing is reasonably straightforward.  I only have 4 colors to overdye.  The exception is that I am not sure which blue dye I want to use. And, I have had some not so pleasant results in the past....and, so, I will experiment!

I cut off 2 samples of each edge of every 'page' that has been bleach discharged. Then I tried out 2 different blue dyes on all of them. It seemed simple enough, to compare the colors afterwards and pick one.  However, these tiny samples were somehow harder to dye, and rinse and process, because they were so tiny. 

Blue dye 1

Blue dye 2

Dyeing blue on top of barely faded oranges, does not look as blue as I wanted. And, the orange pages were the hardest to bleach discharge. I also did not keep track of which dyes I used to make these blends, but I suspect the bottom one had more Navy dye in it. I opted for the top, brighter blues.

Meanwhile, my deck was in a very sad and rotted state. I had been replacing rotted and decayed boards for years. It was originally a redwood deck.  And it had become increasingly difficult to find a source for redwood planks. I decided to make the overall deck smaller, so I started 'borrowing' planks from the decks I would eventually get rid of, to use on the deck sections I was keeping. This worked for a while, but it turns out that the supports for the decks were also rotting, and that was too big a job for me to handle by myself.  

I hired someone to replace the entire deck, but they do not finish the wood with staining.  I also noticed while I was ripping up planks that the edges of the boards rot first.  So, I wanted to stain all sides of the new planks before they were installed. The boards were delivered and then it was up to me to stain them. It was June, and so very hot.  I used the old deck as my work surface, but it was really cramped and crowded and still had missing planks for me to carefully maneuver around.  I wanted to paint each board on all the sides, and put 2 coats on.  It was a lot of work, and did I mention hot? Wah..........  Driven by economics, I kept trying to convince myself that it would be worth it because the new boards would last longer if protected with the stain.

When I was finished staining the boards, I stacked them with spacers (so that they wouldn't stick together) and waited for the demolition to begin. 

They worked quickly and efficiently, and within a week I had a new, and safe deck!

It is so nice to have the deck sections a little more streamlined and to have less deck to take care of in the future.  I also added a little landscaping where there are no longer deck sections.  Next up is planting, but it will have to wait because our summers are too hot for new plants. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Untitled, Part 3

Untitled, Part 3

After completing the application of the wax, it is time for removing most of the dye.  I worked outside on my driveway to disperse the fumes.  It also helps to work in the sun because the sun helps with the bleach discharge process.  Unfortunately my driveway had a good amount of shade, so I kept having to move my work space as the sun moved across the sky. (Note: I lost some of those trees, and now I very much miss the shade they provided!)

I added one piece of waxed fabric at a time, into a big rectangular storage box which had the bleaching agent already in it.  I used about 2 gallons of water mixed with 1 cup of bleach.  While it is reasonably dilute bleach, it is not anything you want to soak your hands in.  I used gloves and tongs to move the fabric around and then watched the colors lighten up! As it got closer to the bleaching out the color, I would remove it and place it on the concrete, and then add another piece of batiked fabric.  I used water from a hose to rinse the fabric, trying to keep the runoff on the concrete so that it wouldn't harm my plants or lawn. If it didn't look light enough after drying, I would repeat the process.

This process involves a lot of sitting and waiting, and also tending to the fabric at just the right time. Unfortunately, we were having a record setting heat wave while I was doing this, so the work was pretty brutal. I had outdoor fans and ice water, and I waited in the shade while my work was in the sun.  When I would feel the effects of the heat, I would halt the process and go inside to the air conditioning and lie down on the cool tile floor. It took a lot more time working this way than I would have liked, but it needed to be done.  I still can't believe that I don't have any photos of all of this.  I was concentrating so hard on getting the work done, that I forgot to document it.  Sorry about that!

The results:
The darker parts, the squares and circle motifs, have wax on them here; thus protecting the beautiful and intense colors safely under the wax. 

I gradually transitioned each piece from the concrete, where it kept trying to blow away, to my zipline in the backyard. I would give it a second thorough rinse and then let it dry outside for at least a day or two. Then I would start again.  Remember, I had 22 of these to do.  This set is almost halfway there. 

Some colors bleached better than others.  I also did not want the wax to crack, so I tried to minimize the folding and crinkling of the fabric while it had wax on it. Some of the colors were so resistant to bleaching, and had to be processed multiply times, and have the cracks to show for it!

The inability to remove more of the orange and golden colors will affect the next step, the overdyeing.  However, it is part of the charm of having a slightly blended color with the next layer.  It makes the original clear and bright colors pop a little bit more. So, it's all good!

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Untitled, Part 2

Untitled, Part 2

In the entire project, this is easily the most relaxing and contemplative step, adding the wax. Notice the pencil lines in the top of the photo? This is a first for me.  I know how big I want the finished piece to be, so I am using the pencil lines to make sure I have enough room around the motif to accomplish the task.  The pencil lines will eventually disappear throughout the process, but as long as the stamped square is basically in the middle, I am good!

This is my wax pot, an electric skillet.  It is set on the lowest setting, just enough heat to melt the wax. I love seeing the reflection of the window on the surface!  Here is my stamping tool, a piece of a cardboard rectangular box, that when stamped produces a square.  I have used it on many, many projects with this motif.

After stamping the squares, I add circles to the centers. Then repeat, a lot. 
Here is a shot of "one page".  It has 56 motifs stamped in wax and held in place on a wooden frame with giant thumb tacks. I will need 20 more of these for my project, but I am going to add some extras, just in case anything goes wrong, for a total of 22 pages of little stamped squares and circles. And, all of this intense and beautiful color! Most of it will disappear in the next step, where I remove the dye from everything that is not stamped in wax. Only the waxed designs will keep their color.  

Here are a few of my previous projects with this motif.
Cookie Cutter Condos


Monday, May 06, 2024

Untitled, as of yet...

Untitled, as of yet....

This project began 2 years ago. And I am finding that writing about it is equally as daunting as making it. And, I didn't want to write about it until I knew it could be done. This one was taking a risk, and on a large scale.

It started as a concept, which I will get to at a later post. For now, it was all about....

The math.
It wasn't hard, except that I kept getting lost in the 3 dimensions and overthinking it.  If I could have realized the simplicity of the system, I think I could have gotten there.  So, I went to my go-to, my son. I explained the project and he immediately knew how to do it.  So, not only did he calculate the numbers for me, he also explained his reasoning, succinctly, and then it all made sense.  But the number he calculated was so large, it was almost unbelievable. I was going to need over 1200 little quilted blocks to make this thing! Nuts!!

That is a lot of fabric. And, a lot of fabric to dye. I was easily able to extract the numbers for each section of the project into yardage. I decided to use pieces that would easily fit on my batik frames. And, I had a roll of plain white fabric 58" wide to use up, so I was good to go.  I made sure to include room for error and have some excess between all the pieces and enough to attach to the frames.

These are the photos after the first cold water rinse, hanging on the line.  They will still need to be washed with soap and hot water in the washing machine.  

The dyeing:  I measured the dye, the soda ash, and water, and mixed in the blender. Then I put my wet and wrung out fabric in a bucket and poured the dye mix on top. Wearing gloves, I scrunched the fabric around a lot in the dye mixture until the fabric was completely coated. The fabric is squeezed lightly to remove the excess dye and carefully placed inside a ziploc plastic baggie.  Then the bags are set in the sun.  I usually flip them every hour or so, and leave them in the bags until the next day.

With a lot of colors and cleanup between each one, it is a lot of work. And, I did it in the summer because the dyes work better at warmer temperatures.  These are from the summer of 2022.

And, keep in mind, the next step is the batik, and most of the color you see here will be removed with a bleach discharge step after the batik...

Wednesday, January 24, 2024


76" x 37"

This work is composed of two selfies, one of my brother and one of me. It always shocks me to see the stark contrast between myself and my brother knowing that we grew up in the same house and were raised by the same parents. Though we took vastly different paths, we are both survivors of a dysfunctional beginning. 

My brother's side is called Half In, Half Out. And, he gave me permission to make a quilt from this image. This work speaks to a universal human experience, the degree to which we are prisoners of our past. This is perhaps more evident in this selfie of my brother who spent decades in prison. It does not seem like a coincidence that he is so comfortable in the cab of his big-rig truck, which approximates the size of his previous cells in state penitentiaries. 


The bars on the left were made with Mistyfuse and black organza, then they were stuffed to make them dimensional.  The bars on the right were also stuffed and defined by a lack of quilting.  The green quilting thread on the right was intentional and symbolic (though I am keeping that private). 

And, while it might be more obvious for an ex-con, there are experiences of my past that imprison me into patterns of behavior that don’t help me either.

My side is called Keeping My Head Above Water. When I made this quilt, it felt like the water was just below my nose, and when I put the blue organza there, it was so disturbing, that I had to lower it to something more optimistic. I don't know, perhaps the making of this work actually helped me, consciously lowering my stress level.

Much too frequently I feel like I am waiting for the next big disaster to happen. I am treading water, trying to keep my head above it, and breathing in and out. I am probably doing better than I think I am. But curve balls from the universe threaten my anxious existence. When will I be swamped by the next tidal wave? It is about survival. I am separated into my many roles like colors in a halftone pattern, frequently overlapping to show the whole picture when I can only see what is right in front of me, indecipherable in the present. Colors and dots, illusion of transparency to create images...


Both of these were made with Photoshop and then printing the images at Spoonflower.  The quilting on my half was ridiculously hard with the neutral thread in straight lines on the halftone of circles... keeping the lines level, as I try to remain level-headed. And, it was a very emotional piece to make, so much so, that it has taken me 6 months to post it after completion. 

I did enter it into Quilts=Art=Quilts, and it was rejected.  After seeing images of the show, I can see why, it did not fit in. I also entered my brother's side into SAQA's virtual exhibit called Imprisoned.  (My half was not finished by the deadline). It was accepted into that show, and they made a mock up gallery, since the show was online only, and used my brother's image for the entry into the show. It felt very nice to see it there. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Houston 2023

International Quilt Festival - Houston, TX    Nov 2 - 5, 2023
International Quilt Market - Houston, TX     Oct 28 - 30, 2023

I am excited to have 3 quilts at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this year.  No awards this year, but I am delighted to have my quilts there! Ha, I just noticed that I already blogged about Houston earlier this summer.  That's okay, this post refreshes my memory!

I have one in the exhibit Celebration of Color, which premiered in Long Beach, California.  It will be in Houston too! It is Turn the Dial, and is a two-sided quilt, though I think only one side will be exhibited. I am okay with that because this quilt got to premier in my solo show, Both Sides Now, two years ago, and both sides were shown.

My second quilt is in the exhibit In Full Bloom.  It is starting in Houston and will then travel. This one is called Mother Nature's All Inclusive Flower Garden.

My third quilt is in the Judged Show.  It is called Complements. 

I am noticing a common element in these three.  LOTS of saturated color! Fantastic!

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

New England Quilt Museum

contacted me last spring to request one of my quilts for their exhibit, Animalia: the Animal Kingdom in Quilts and Textiles, this fall! I think that's a first for me, and I really like it! They wanted this one:

Plenty to Go Around / Scarcity

I just had one question, can you show both sides? And they said yes.  So, I said yes.  
I also wasn't sure of it's availability so I offered another of my deer quilts.  In the end they wanted both quilts. I'm delighted.  I love the Two Deer quilt so much, I rarely let it out to travel.  
Two Deer (or Too Dear)

The exhibit runs Sept 12 through Dec 30.  I was hoping to post some photos of the exhibit, but I am not going to be traveling there.  Hopefully, they will post some, or perhaps one of their visitors!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

SAQA Minimalism

Conversations - 52" x 33"

I was so happy to have my quilt Conversations juried into SAQA's new global exhibit, Minimalism. My quilt is going to amazing places! And this is just the first year of the three year tour! Outstanding!

Earlier this month (Sept 14-17), it premiered at the European Patchwork Meeting in Val D'Argent, Alsace France. Now it is moving on to an exhibit called Abilmente in Vicenza, Italy, opening Oct 12-15.  It is so nice to see that they are using an image of my quilt on their exhibits page! It would have been even better if they had attached my name to the image, but they didn't, and so I include it here.

And, if I were there, I would want to explore this beautiful place.  I mean, LOOK at those mountains! The architecture is so interesting, and it doesn't look at all like central Texas. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Summer News

Some things have been happening, which is ever so lovely because the project I am currently working on is taking foreverrrrr!

I am honored to have won an Honorable Mention in the Lincoln Center new Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts exhibit for my quilt Ocean Blues/Oil and Water! Phil D. Jones, one of the awards judges noted that my quilt was a "conceptual beauty!"  High praise indeed and remarkably validating!! 

My quilt, Turn the Dial/Diverging Distractions had been on display at the International Quilt Festival show in Long Beach, July 6 - 8 in the exhibit Celebration of Color. I believe it is going to Houston next for the fall Festival Market and Quilt Show, Nov 2 - 5. This one was also a two-sided quilt, but they only showed the front side (left). I am okay with that, because the feeling you get standing in front of this giant burst of yellow is pure joy! That works for me!

And, I entered and got juried into a special exhibit at the International Quilt Festival, called in Full Bloom, with my quilt, Mother Nature's All-Inclusive Flower Garden. 

As a special surprise, I found out a few weeks ago that it was selected by Nancy O'Bryant as the signature quilt for Quilt Market/Houston this year. What an incredible honor!!! This means that the image will be included on Quilt Market marketing materials.  Very cool!

And, last, I got a quilt juried into the judged show at the International Quilt Festival/Houston this year.  It is called Complements and is a special favorite of mine!  I didn't get to enter last year because I was a judge.  And the year before, my entry was not juried in. So it's been a few years.

I love the complexity of the tiny piecing of the print fabrics contrasted with the giant bold solid color swaths in complementary colors. It appeals to me on many levels. And, it is so bright, it will probably glow and light up the quilts around it! Ha ha ha ha ha! Fun!

Seems like a good year to get back to Houston.  I am truly hoping that I can make it! Cheers!