Archive for July, 2009

indigo inclined

July 30, 2009

I sometimes think indigo must be the color of the human soul.  Or perhaps the soul of all living things.  Here in the Catskills, I’m often transfixed by the indigo hues of these ancient mountains.  I’ve read that they are the oldest mountains in the world, though now they are more like great, elegant hills, the very opposite of brash young skyscrapers like the Rockies.  It’s as if they’ve lived so long their blue souls have become very apparent.  In the winter, our mountains are the more austere, deep indigo tones, breathtakingly dramatic.  In summer they take on blue-green hues, and with their veil of humid haze look faded and well-used like the oldest indigo fabric.

Some years ago, I wanted to gather the full range of my love for indigo into a single quilt.  Impossible of course, but the attempt was not completely unsuccessful in its own way.

indigo quilt with sun, 94"x94"

indigo quilt with sun, 94"x94"

The dark diamond “eyes” in this pattern are made from hand-dyed, handwoven cotton of the darkest indigo created by an 80-yr-old dyer in Japan who used traditional methods.  The lattice strips creating the larger grid pattern are structured mostly by three different indigo woven stripes made by the same dyer.  Both the stripes and the solid dark indigoes were obtained from Susan Ball Faeder of Quilters Express to Japan.

Detail 1 of indigo quilt

Detail 1 of indigo quilt

Detail 1: West African adire on cotton damask; front and back of South African Da Gama Three Cats shweshwe; vintage Japanese kasuri; commercial Indonesian batik; and, very special, the back of a katazome stencil-dyed fabric by Karen Miller (Karen also has a blog).

Detail 2 of indigo quilt

Detail 2 of indigo quilt

Detail 2: vintage Japanese indigo and red woven stripe from a small piece that was used very judiciously and scattered across the surface of the quilt; also other vintage Japanese woven stripe, Dargate wet-print (red diamond), Indonesian batik, African adire.  The occasional irregular center diamond is the result of deliberately inconsistent cutting. A random effect, however, because the color field of the quilt was laid out for the broad surface composition.  The diamond eyes fell as they would.

Detail 3 of indigo quilt

Detail 3 of indigo quilt

Detail 3: red spot in a vintage Japanese kasuri; other kasuri examples; African adire; shweshwe; batik

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nothing new in this world

July 23, 2009

In the summer of 2008 I asked Stephen Szczepanek of Sri Threads about a photo of a couple textile pieces he has on his homepage.  They looked to be made using an enclosed seam like a French seam.  In fact they looked like a small scale version of what I’d been working on with the summer spreads idea.  But they looked to be ramie or linen or hemp.

Stephen said they were examples of Korean pojagi, and that they were indeed ramie.  The technique is centuries old and has been having a resurgence in recent years, both among collectors and makers.  There are some beautiful examples around on the web, mostly modern versions of the technique.  I highly recommend visiting Stephen’s website and his blog to see and learn more about some of his antique pieces.

But the big thing for me in this discovery was learning that what I thought I was inventing for myself is actually ancient.  That summer I tried my hand at a small piece (it became a table scarf) using handkerchief-weight linen.

first pojagi test piece

first pojagi test piece

Looks okay, but the seams aren’t fine enough.  I felt I had to move on to a large-scale piece as a single layer summer spread, using very lightweight cottons like Fassett shot cotton or batiste or lawn.  Whites and cool neutrals.  I was thinking along the lines of an old computer sketch I had of diagonal half-squares.  I wanted the effect to be of floating, flickering, cool light.

But…by January of 2009, I still hadn’t started the pojagi summer spread of the previous summer’s thinking, but did register to take a workshop series with Chunghie Lee on pojagi and Korean textiles.  It was held at The Korea Society in NYC in association with a pojagi exhibition they were having at the time.  I did try to work on another small piece, a scarf using Fassett solid cottons in red tones.  Only got halfway with that by the time the class started.  Hope to get back to it someday.

three small summer spreads

July 17, 2009

In the spring of 2007, I started playing with the idea of using Kaffe Fassett “shot” solids for French-seam summer spreads for all three grandchildren when they were to visit that summer.  Bright, high-contrast colors: 1) scarlet, pomegranate, & cobalt,  2) grape, tangerine, & jade,  3) forget-me-not, apple, & lavender.  With some Fassett stripes and ikat dots for added visual interest, plus bright contrasting thread that showed on the enclosed seams.

I’d been playing with French seams for a couple of years or so because I’d been working a lot with linens and wanted to avoid raveling seams and also to give structure to large works.  The beauty of these seams and the possibility of using them for a single-layer summer spread kept drawing me down a path toward these first small spreads for the grandchildren.

From these, I learned a lot about how to assemble such works.  For instance, because they were made from large fabric pieces (had to make three of them very fast!), the flaps of the enclosed seams had to be sewn down.  Otherwise, the puckering when washed didn’t look good.  Since then, I’ve made others, some with flaps sewn down and others with flaps left free as a kind of pleating and surface texture.

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