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I Came Up With a Project

Indigo dyed fabric samples

Earlier this year, I came up with a project idea that I really wanted to do. My idea was:

Grow indigo. Make it into indigo dye. Teach dye classes. Teach sewing classes as we sew that fabric into quilts. Make a BLANKET FORT! and have a party in it. Clean and then donate the quilts to a homeless shelter.

I looked around for some resources and found some awesome grant ideas.  I applied for two grants.  One was through The Burning Man Global Arts Program.  Important detail: It’s not directly connected to the festival.  Here is their mission statement:

This program funds highly interactive, community-driven works of art that prioritize community involvement in their development, execution and display. We fund art that is accessible to the public, civic in scope and prompts the viewer to act. We like art that can be experienced in more ways than visually – art that is touched, heard or experienced as well as viewed. We prioritize funding art that involves the audience in its conception, creation and presentation. This program’s impact is driven by a willingness to take risks and be the first to give a grant to a project or to work with artists and projects that other funders might avoid, as well as a focus on community-driven processes that have effects far beyond the artwork itself.

Perfect! If I got that grant, I could offer the classes for FREE! I made it to the second round of applicants, which really got my back side into gear. I also applied to the Dane Arts Grant program looking for additional funding.  I connected with several local groups and stores and a maker space and was really making some exciting connections and plans.  I had locations for dye classes and sewing classes, a discount on fabric, helpers, a place for the party, plant growing support from a farmer, a community garden space, a band for the party, a consultant to help with her amazing indigo knowledge plus I connected with a ton of enthusiastic and interested, interesting people. I went to the Dane County Grant board meeting (you’re allowed to listen in when they review your grant) and they seemed very positive and enthusiastic. 

The indigo seeds needed to be in seed starter in mid-March and the grant announcements would be in April, but hey, that’s cool. I bought seeds and this really fabulous farmer name Dela, who owns Scotch Hill Farm – I met her because of all the Grant planning though this amazing group of women farmers called the Soil Sisters – was game to start the seeds for me for a small, really just token fee. She’s awesome. 

I LOVE teaching, I LOVE dyeing, I LOVE sewing, I LOVE connecting with people, I LOVE being able to offer FREE classes, I LOVE blanket forts! It was all coming together: Year of Jennifer!

You know what happened next. Covid has affected many other people worse than it hit me.

The Burning Man Global Arts Organization decided that they would cancel the whole grant program this year. Community projects are a big no go during a pandemic. The Dane Arts Grant required another funding source, but I had lost my biggest possible source so I lost that grant as well. Maybe I could have counted some of the in-kind donations of time, space and generous discount on fabric but since there would be no classes, those really couldn’t be used. If there was a way, I couldn’t think of one.

The indigo, on the bright side, was already sprouting. 

Dela and I planted out a small (to me big, but in a whole big picture on a farm way, small) field of indigo and my kids and I planted out a 10X20 plot in a community garden near my house in Madison.

I’m trying to think of ways to do my whole project without the Blanket Fort Party and with no in person classes but it’s kind of intimidating to think of a way to split up the indigo and ship it out and then teach a socially distant class???  I don’t know. 

But I’m learning a ton! I’ve had a first harvest of the plot near my house and I made indigo pigment from a frickin’ plant! I’ll keep you all posted on whatever happens next. I’ve made some posts on Instagram of the latest dye making processes but I plan to move all of the learning I’ve done over here. You may see some repeated info for just a little bit.

And I promise that I won’t make more posts with no pictures.  They’re the worst!

 

 

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Debbie Maddy is coming to Madison!

Debby Maddy teaching a class in Madison WI

 

Debbie Maddy is coming to town to teach an Indigo and Shibori Intensive!

I’ve been following Debbie Maddy for a while and whenever she posts class photos, I DROOL!  I want to learn those gorgeous and detailed shibori skills!  

So I got this kooky idea: What if I asked real nice and found her an awesome place to teach.  Would she be willing to travel this far north? 

Answer: YES!  She is totally game and The Electric Needle was thrilled to offer their gorgeous dye studio space.  All the parts just came together!

The details are on the Electric Needle’s website.  If you’re interested, please sign up ASAP because this class is going to fill. I’m already signed up!  

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Shibori and Indigo Dyed Class Samples

arashi shibori samples

Today was a cool fall day but I still got out and made some Shibori and Indigo dyed samples for my upcoming indigo dye classes at The Electric Needle.

Fall is coming again. Dang it. I thought summer would go on and on. For some reason (hope related) I always think summer will never end, not this year.  But I was wrong again.

arashi shibori samples
Tight on the left and loose on the right. Really it’s the opposite of how things should be: righty tighty, left loosey.  Oops

I’ve either sold or quilted many of my arashi samples so I knocked out a few more. I just love arashi shibori.  All of these were made by sewing the fabric into a tube that was then put around a PVC pipe and then NOT wrapped with string (ummm…if you’ve never done it before, trust me, that makes more sense when you see the process).  I love how organic and watery they look.  The wider guys are half yards.  One was a tight tube and one was loose, which makes such a dramatic difference!

Arashi shibori samples small

These skinny dudes are actually called “skinny quarters”. They are 9 inches wide. Each one was sewn into a bias tube and put on a tube. Only one was a tight tube and I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember which is which. They are hanging on the line right now. I’m pretty durn sure that it’s the one with more white.

Itajime Star

I also needed some Itajime samples. I met some amazing dye artists last weekend at a Circle of Life Studio event in Eagle River.  They were all so inspiring. I followed the lead of Yukako Kadono of Slow Stitch Studio. I moved my blocks around and got these great color changes. I love this picture especially because you can see the green from the color change that indigo goes through on the left side of the star.

Katano Shibori

I did play a little but with some Katano Shibori.  It’s done with a sewing machine and can really look dramatic.  I haven’t done this one very much but I really enjoy it and plan to do more.

Itajime wrapping cloth

And finally this big one is a blank from Dharma Trading Company that I wanted to test out.  I think this size cloth (about 42 X42) would make awesome wrapping cloths for presents.

I dyed till I ran out of light last night.  If you scroll through all the pictures, you can kinda see the progression of the sun going down.

As much as I’m bummed that summer is ending (NOOOOoooooooOOOO!!!), I’m glad to get back into the Electric Needle Studio to teach. We’ve scheduled classes on the first Saturday of every month from October to May (not including January) and it feels like I’m going home again.  You can check my events page or just head over to the Electric Needle’s class page to learn more and sign up.

I’ll post more about last weekend in another post.  I’m still kinda processing how awesome it was.

 

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Great Class at Mill House Quilts

I taught another just fabulous class at Mill House Quilts last weekend!

Arashi Indigo Dyed Fat Quarter

The students were very interested in trying out new techniques.  Lots had experience with dyeing but not with indigo, which was super cool.

Stitched embroidery fabric

Chopsticks were very popular in this class.  It’s funny how different patterns will trend in different classes.  But the Mandala is always a popular pattern.

Mandala patterned Fat Quarter

You can still see lots of green in this one.  The indigo is still oxidizing.

It was a chopstick heavy day. They are so lovely!

As I always end up doing there, I tied the lines between two cars. 

Fortunately, this student’s car not only had a roof rack, but was also the right color.

Here’s the other end of the line

And that sky! 

It was hot and buggy but everyone left happy. I love teaching classes and try to get to Mill House at least once a year.  It’s not easy to travel with indigo but the back of the shop is pretty ideal for indigo: breezy and just shady enough in the afternoon.  

 

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So Excited!

I just got these in the mail: a dozen GIANT handwoven cotton scarves from Maiwa.  Guess what I’m going to do with them 🙂

Khadi Cotton Fine Handwoven Shawls
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Wearing a scarf ALL OF THE TIME!

The air is crisp, and twinkle lights are out all around the city lighting up the dark nights. True winter means you’re wearing a scarf ALL THE TIME! So, why not rock an indigo-dyed infinity scarf! Perfect for keeping the chill off.

All I Want For Christmas Is…..Deep Into Indigo!

Are you wishing that Santa helps you get your Christmas wish of a hot summer weekend of indigo dyeing in 2018, but want to know a little more first?
Here are some FAQs about the retreat:

 

Q: Can I bring my own fabric to dye?
YES!  While the retreat price includes all your materials, including fabric, tools, and access to prepared dye vats, you can bring whatever you want (as long as it’s natural fiber) to prep and dye during the retreat.

Q: Will I learn how to prepare different types of indigo vats?
YES! Jen will demonstrate how to do both natural and synthetic vats.

Q: What is included in the cost of the retreat?
Deep Into Indigo is an all-inclusive retreat. That means you get your lodging, meals (including wine and cocktails), instruction and all indigo dyeing supplies & tools. You can bring your own fabric, but only if you want to.

 

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Itajime

I recently acquired a box full of itajime blocks.  I plan to have them available at the Deep Into Indigo Retreat.  The Retreat is a blast.  This year, to ensure our sanity, we have decided to ask for a $150 deposit due by January 30th.  If we get 10 people by then, the Retreat will run.  If not, we are going to focus on other events. But we reeeeeally want the Retreat to run.  So if you plan to wait until the last possible minute to register, that minute is coming up really soon.

You don’t need access to acrylic blocks to make gorgeous work, simple rubber bands will do the job very nicely. Itajime is a very simple, yet beautiful and sophisticated technique. Like all shibori techniques, it has a bajillion possible variations.

First you accordion or fan fold your fabric.  Then you do it again. I like to use a triangle fold but you could totally use a square or rectangle. My favorite triangle fold is the equilateral triangle. You make it using a fold and a flip.

As you fold it, you need to go on as you began…finally that advice makes sense to me. Meaning, if your first fold is away from you, after you flip it, all of the folds need to go away from you.  Not that “away from you” is the only way, any way is right as long as you are consistent.  Now, that’s some good advice.

It’s easier to show than to tell, though, so I made a quick video about it.  It’s less than two minutes long.

Once you have made your triangle bundle, you get to pick how to place your resists and which resists to use.  This is also half the fun.  Every slight variation you make in where you put it, will totally change the look of your pattern.  Mighty cool.

Let me know if you have questions about the technique or the Deep Into Indigo Retreat.  Happy dyeing!

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Botanical Colors FTW

Thanks to Kathy Hattori from Botanical Colors for sharing the chemicals for three different kinds of organic indigo vats at the Deep Into Indigo Retreat. I attended a workshop day in her studio in the spring and I learned so much.  She’s really awesome; generous with her expertise, time and supplies.

 

For starters, you gotta hydrate that indigo before it goes into the vat.  The directions often call for shaking it in a jar with water and marbles but a whisk is just easier and works as well.

Henna vat samples. Both had one dip. The one one the left was tested on the first day, the one on the right was dipped the second day. Henna vats work best a few days after they’re made.

We made an iron vat, a henna vat and a fructose vat.  Like most things I get into, I made lots of really awesome messes and mistakes.

But that didn’t slow us down at all.

Here’s a dip from the iron vat.

To see if the dye is ready, you check under the flower to see if it’s clear and not at all blue-ish.

We put our fabric in stainless steel baskets to keep it from getting stained by the sludge at the bottom.  Also, the liquid was hot and we didn’t want to keep our hands in there.

Oops.  Here’s my favorite mistake of the weekend.  I made a fructose vat. I tripled the recipe but didn’t triple the container size so it made a pretty awesome mess.  Like a kid’s volcano experiment but deeply blue!

I scraped it into the vat and it still worked. Just a little unexpected adventure. And, yes, I did give myself a blue mustache.

There was definitely an “Organic Vat Posse” among the participants.  I also had some pre-reduced indigo crystals from Dharma Trading Company for people to dye with but these ladies were super into the organic vats.

The whole process of using organic vats is really enticing.  It smells way better too.

You can learn more about it on the Botanical Colors website.  Like I said, Kathy is very generous with her knowledge and, along with really high quality dye stuff, her website is chock full of tutorials and advice.

Haley Hundt took all of these gorgeous pictures.  She did such a fantastic job!!

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One Week Left!!

Just dyeing my batiks a little. Check out all those colors!  They will all be blue by and by. #blog | July 09, 2017 at 02:06PM
Just dyeing my batiks a little. Check out all those colors! They will all be blue by and by. #blog

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One Week Left!!

If you're waiting till the last minute to sign up for the Deep Into Indigo Retreat, it's time!  It's one week away!!!!! Yikes!  I'm getting ready to dye your goody bags. 💙💙💙❤️❤️❤️ #blog | July 07, 2017 at 11:33AM
If you’re waiting till the last minute to sign up for the Deep Into Indigo Retreat, it’s time! It’s one week away!!!!! Yikes! I’m getting ready to dye your goody bags. 💙💙💙❤️❤️❤️ #blog