first finished project of 2024

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Over the first few days of the new year I finished up the binding and the last bit of quilting on my indigo and gray snowball quilt, and embroidered my signature. Once the weather is a little nicer I’ll go outside and take some better photos and put together a few notes on the construction and inspiration. For now here’s a portion of it laid out on the kitchen floor. It’s already been warming us on the couch and has graced the guest bed for visiting family. I’m so pleased with it and now have a grand plan to go through all of my decades of stashed fabrics around the house and compile the lot of it into blankets. I didn’t need a new hobby but here we are, and I’ve definitely caught the bug.

the things i do for money

A white woman's forearm wearing a stack of hair scrunchies in blue, bronze, and orange tones, in front of a blue backdrop.

I delivered this witchy, moody collection of luxurious silk scrunchies to asil yesterday (link: asil gallery and studio). They’re hand printed with some of my lino blocks, and dyed with indigo, coreopsis, avocado pits, comfrey, and iron. I’ve been using them to wrap up my bedtime topknot and the silk is so gentle on my hellaciously unruly curls and I feel like an old-timey movie star going to bed wearing such elegant accessories even though I’m usually also wearing a stretched-out tank top with ceiling paint on it.

Silk hair scrunchies in blue, bronze, and orange tones, on a blue backdrop.

swamp hag

a white woman with brown hair and tattoos, viewed from the neck down, wearing a sleeveless olive drab dress and standing in front of three mannequins draped in philodendron fronds.

I made some alterations this week on this dress that I call my swamp hag gown, which has been through a few different iterations already. I originally made it for my 50th birthday, out of a thrifted gray cotton curtain ecoprinted with leaves from my garden, using the Woolfork dress pattern by Jacqueline Cieslak (pattern link: Woolfork pattern). It’s a gorgeous pattern but I felt like I had too much coverage around the shoulders for my wild hot flashing perimenopause lifestyle, so I chopped it off just below the bust dart and added a new bodice using the lining pieces from the Ogden Cami by True Bias (pattern link: Ogden Cami pattern). Then after a while I bundled the dress back into the dirty pot and ecoprinted it again with leaves off our cherry tree, to ramp up the swampiness.

I had to cut the front of that new bodice just slightly off grain due to fabric constraints and of course that caused the whole dress to shift slightly to my left, which I lived with for a while but my sternum tattoo made the off-centredness very obvious so finally, a couple of weeks ago, I made another new bodice. In the meantime I had found a huge piece of the original fabric (there’s enough for a whole second dress) so was able to cut it luxuriously straight. That’s when I had to accept that the Ogden bodice doesn’t work all that well for my body and you’re not even going to see that version because it pushed my breasts down too uncomfortably to even pose for a photo. Meanwhile I had overdyed the whole thing to an olive green much richer than what shows up in the photo, using goldenrod flowers from the alley and a dip in ferrous sulfate.

Fourth time’s the charm for this dress as I’ve now gotten it pretty close to perfect, using the bodice from Caramiya Maui’s Yesterday Dress (pattern link: Yesterday Dress pattern), which is quickly becoming my go-to pattern. I did a simple narrow shoulder adjustment by shifting about 7mm from the centre fold to the side seam, as my earlier dresses made from this pattern tend to slip off my shoulders. It’s much better but still a little slippy so next time I’ll angle the straps inward a smidge and maybe also shorten them just a little.

close up of the chest and upper arms of a white woman with brown curly hair and tattoos wearing a sleeveless dress in brown and olive green.

The new bodice is a handkerchief weight linen that I dyed with black walnut hulls; not quite the same shade as the new colour of the dress but this walnut fabric has already faded a bit in another dress so I know it’ll be closer one day. Probably just in time for another trip through the dye pot.

Here’s a peek at the lining, indigo dyed cotton from the Bleachery in Aurura, IL, and the hand finishing stitches on the bias binding. I love me a sweet hand finish. I even found a brown thread in my Gramma’s sewing stuff that’s an exact match for the walnut dyed linen.

close up of a needle and thread stitching a hem of brown linen down over blue cotton.

And these are the earlier versions of the dress. Left, an ecoprinted Woolfork on my 50th birthday. Middle, with a new skimpier bodice more appropriate for the heat of middle age. Right, overprinted with rusty cans and cherry leaves.

a side to side comparison of three different versions of a gray sleeveless dress, modeled by a white woman with long hair and tattoos viewed from the neck down.

quilt update

a blue and gray quilt draped across a gray couch.

I’ve got enough of the quilting done from the centre outward that I feel confident taking it off the frame and doing the rest of the quilting with it across my lap on the couch. Much better for my back and also for my eyes, as the lighting in my sewing room is extremely unworkable. It’s lovely to be able to use it and stitch on it at the same time, and I’ve even taken my first nap under it.

I decided against using multiple colours for the quilting, as the indigo and walnut dyed sashiko thread completely disappear against the quilt fabric. I’ll be doing the whole thing in the navy blue. It’s the only colour in the quilt that I didn’t make myself but I like the high contrast.

a blurred view of a tortoiseshell cat hiding under a quilt frame.

Skeeter thought the quilting frame was a pretty good blanket fort.

the cozy wozy

A nine-patch quilt square of blue and gray hand printed fabrics.

This past month I’ve been working on my first ever full size quilt, made from cotton muslin fabric I printed and dyed over the past few years while learning about indigo. It’s a snowball style, inspired by a beautiful orange and black quilt that I love made by Sarah Gagnon (link: Pelican Quilts). I like the simple square block with its tiny counterchanged corners. My gray fabrics are printed with leaf tannins and with rusty objects, and dyed with different combinations of tannins (walnut, myrobalan, gallnut) and iron water made by slowly dissolving a cast iron skillet in diluted vinegar. The blues are all of those things overdyed with indigo, plus some of my screenprints overdyed with indigo (some straight and some in combination with red iron oxide).

After weeks of making the squares with the tiny corners, and after soliciting advice from my quilt artist friend Lisa (link: asil) for how to start putting them together, the blocks came together fairly quickly and the final assembly of 4×5 nine-patch blocks took only a day. Here it is all laid out ready to be basted.

A blue and gray checkerboard quilt laid out on a floor.

And here’s the back, cobbled together from whatever pieces of the same fabric I had left. I got lucky and still had pieces of every major colour from the front: screenprint, printed walnut and maple leaves, rust marks, and pale indigo on top of a piece I had used as a screenprinting dropsheet.

The back of a quilt, composed of large blocks of blue and gray fabrics, laid out on a floor.

Good news: it already meets the approval of our household’s most discerning seeker of coziness.

A tortoiseshell cat lying on a blue and gray quilt laid out on a floor, with a cone of white thread and a tiny pair of red embroidery scissors in the foreground.

Here’s the part that’s going to take forever. I’m quilting this with a fairly large stitch and sashiko thread so it really shows, half a centimetre in from the edge of each large square, in order to really accentuate those counterchanged diamonds at the corners. You’ll notice that I took absolutely no care in making the corners consistent, and I love how janky some of them are. Precision isn’t really all that important to me in quilting, and as long as the 90° corners of the little triangles line up well (most are bang on, and those that aren’t are very close) then I don’t really care how out of whack the other corners are. A good thing, because some of them are extremely out of whack.

I’ve started quilting in the centre with navy blue thread. As it moves outward it’ll shift to a lighter blue dyed with walnut and indigo, then to a paler one dyed just with walnut, for what I hope will be a subtle pixelated sunburst effect.

Closeup of a blue and gray quilt, with quilting in progress and a pair of red embroidery scissors.