Monday, July 02, 2012

Shibori

I've decided that the time has come to make a quilt. I made quilts for each of my children, around the time they graduated to big beds of their own. Erin got my first quilt ever: appliqu├ęd jungle animals in the main squares. Noah was given a community quilt by a host of my friends, a colourful alphabet quilt. I later made him a more "grown-up" quilt, a repeating stars motif with black and turquoise whale printed fabric. For Sophie I made a quilt of drawings the older two children had made, embroidering a replica of each picture (Noah was very into dinosaurs at the time!) onto a square of muslin. Fiona got a tie-dye quilt: the older three kids and I tie-dyed individual squares in a rainbow of colours and designs, and added black-and-bold sashing.

Who will get the next quilt? Perhaps it will belong to the grown-ups. Perhaps it will be a "spare bed" quilt. Not that we have a spare bed, but it never hurts to have an extra quilt around. 

I have a vision of a quilt-top made of denim. I know this is a really challenging vision: denim is nasty to work with once you get more than two thicknesses of it. As you inevitably do piecing a quilt. But I have a good sewing machine, and a fair bit of ingenuity and experience. We'll see. 

I've been harvesting used-up jeans for years, and the local donation store is a ready repository of plus-sized jeans in a beautiful array of indigos. Denim will be easy to find.

The striking element in my quilt will be the shibori sampler blocks. Shibori is a Japanese textile art. It's a form of resist dyeing traditionally done with folding and stitching, using indigo. I first saw it years ago in a quilting book I bought. Then my kids were able to experiment with it during their art workshops with a local textile artist:



The central motif here is done with cherry pits. The pits are pinched in the fabric and the "neck" of the pinch is wound with thread. The upper and lower patterns are what is called "mokume," or wood-grain. they're made by pleating the fabric with multiple parallel running stitches which are then tightened. The muslin above has been dyed with a fibre-reactive dye, exactly the same stuff we use for tie-dyeing. Lots of it lives in our basement. 

My quilt will not use indigo either, except in the denim, nor will it use a traditional blue colour for the shibori. Instead the shibori blocks will be done in fire-engine red. I intend to make each of the two dozen blocks using a different shibori pattern or technique. Here are a few of my first dozen samples. The sewing is shown on the left, and the right panel shows the same sample with the thread drawn and tied as tightly as I could manage.

Top: a fine-grained mokume. 
Middle: Komu, a geometrically pleated technique using stitched squares and twist-tied cherry pits
Bottom: Maki-agi, a stitched shape resist. 
I have a dozen or so ready for the dye bath now. I've done a traditional arashi (diagonal pole-pleated resist), a heart in maki-agi, some itajime (folded shape-resist), some meandering ori-nui, and various other experiments. I have some extra fabric, so if a few of the squares don't work out that will be fine.

But I'm so excited to be accumulating all these surprises-in-waiting! It will take me another week or so to finish a couple of dozen samples. Then it will be dye time ... and the big reveal!

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