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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!



Sew with Knits! – Leggings

Join me in this beginner class to explore sewing with knit fabric. 
Make your very own pair of leggings.
They are available for sizes xxs – 3xl.
Leggings are the new comfy casual at home or running errands.

Supply List will be sent out 1 week before the class.

Dip Into Indigo – Katazome Resist

Starch Resist.  It’s stencil time!  You’ll play with rice resist, to make beautiful patterns dyed with indigo on quilting cotton.

Dress to get messy, including your shoes.
No fabric dyeing experience is required. 

Come and check out the Electric Needle’s dye studio.  It is in the basement so you will need to be able to go
up and down one flight of stairs. If you have restrictions please call the store to schedule a private class.

Supply List will be sent out 1 week before the class.

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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!  

Monona Library Mending Day

The Monona Library Mending Day, developed by The Sewing Machine Project will be held on the second Sunday of the month (Sept to May) from 2-4 pm.

Bring in your loved but worn clothes for mending …or get a head start on freshening up your wardrobe with some trim and buttons. It’s free!

Our wonderful volunteers will hem, mend, and patch items for people. Some restrictions apply and mending is done on a first come basis.

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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.


Deep Into Indigo Thunderpants Dyeing Class

Class Description:  You deserve fancy undies! Come and make your own beautifully-patterned, blue and white Thunderpants using the fundamentals of Japanese Shibori technique and natural indigo dyeing. No fabric dyeing experience is required for this workshop. Beginners and experienced dyers are welcome.


Before you dye your Thunderpants, we’ll practice a bit by dyeing a set of cotton napkins using different shibori patterns we will teach you.

What you get?:

  • Sumptuous al fresco Gluten & Vegetarian sensitive lunch, with time to do some shopping at Z Boutique
  • Workshop kit including 1 set of Thunderpants, Set of 4 cotton napkins, workshop tools, washing instructions & plastic bags to bring home your completed projects
  • Dye instruction and introduction to shibori techniques
  • All necessary tools and dye
  • Chance to dye your own garment or textile item with help

What to Bring:  You may also bring along a shirt or other item of your own to dip dye in the vats. Indigo dye only works with natural fiber textiles, so your item must be made of cotton, linen, rayon, or bamboo to be dyed with indigo. If your item has a small percentage of Lycra or another synthetic fiber, it’s still possible to dye it with indigo.

How to Dress: Come to the workshop, dressed in clothes you don’t mind staining blue!  Optional: Wear a pair of light colored, cotton canvas shoes to the workshop, and turn them blue while you work!

What is Shibori?: “Shibori” means to fold, clamp, stitch or in some way block off fabric to create patterns when the fabric is dyed. We’ll be experimenting with a variety of shibori techniques to make beautiful patterns. These patterns can be simple or as complex depending on the specific technique. Some of the techniques we will try are Itajime (Block resist), Arashi (Pole Wrap resist), and  Kumo (Pleated resist).

What’s So Special About Indigo?: Dyeing with Indigo is like magic!  It’s like no other dye. Indigo, which is derived from a plant, is not water soluble, so to make it work as a dye you need to lower the level of oxygen in the vat and raise the pH. There are many recipes to make the vat conditions work. Typically either through fermentation or with the use of chemicals. Once this is done, the liquid in the vat is not blue. The liquid is yellow or brown, depending on the recipe used. The magic happens when you take your piece out of the vat and open it up; once the oxygen hits it, your piece turns blue right before your eyes!

Quilt Expo: Dipping Into Indigo Dye One Hour Lecture

Indigo dyed fabric samples

Textile Artist Jennifer Falkowski has been teaching indigo dye classes in Wisconsin for almost a decade.

In this talk I will share my enthusiasm for the magic of indigo and its history, from the bronze age to the modern resurgence of slow fashion. I will show samples and indigo quilts.

My lecture will repeat at 4 pm on every day of the Expo.  Sign up early!

Shibori Experience at The Electric Needle

Indigo Dyeing at The Electric Needle

Make some beautifully patterned blue and white fabric using the fundamentals of Japanese Shibori techniques and indigo dyeing.

No fabric dyeing experience is required.

Shibori means to fold, clamp, stitch or in some way block off fabric to create patterns when the fabric is dyed.
We’ll be experimenting with a variety of shibori techniques to make beautiful patterns.

Then, you’ll dye your patterned fabric in an indigo dye vat. Feel free to bring along a tee shirt (natural fibers only) to dip into the vat.

Dress in clothes and shoes that can get stained blue.

o Learn about Indigo chemistry and history
o Experiment with basic Shibori techniques
o Fabric will be provided: 4 fat quarters (approximately 18’ X 22’ pieces) of cotton fabric to learn with
o You’ll get ample time to dye your fabric in an indigo dye vat.

Dye your own Quilt!

This is a three part class.
In the first class you will Indigo dye your own fabric  for use in the quilt.

We will dye eight fat quarters with a few different patterns to later make a beautiful quilt top.

Sat, Oct 6, 2018 at 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Sat, Oct 20, 2018 at 10:30 am to 1:00 pm
Sat, Oct 27, 2018 at 10:30 am to 1:00 pm

Mary Gabich will teach the quilting portion of the classes.

In the second and third classes we will work on cutting out and assembling the quilt top.

We will be  using the Four Patch Charm pattern by Kathy Schwarz. Pattern will be included in price of class.

This is an enthusiastic beginner class.