Monthly Archives: January 2020

Sweating the Small Stuff


I felt like I spent my entire week rushing to fit in meals and appointments, getting unnecessarily stressed by trivia. Despite that, I fitted in 3 simple customer quilts and celebrated my birthday. Even though I was not in India as planned, my girls made it special with lovely cards and gifts. The next day we drove Freya down to St Andrews to begin her final semester of 4th year. It is incredible how quickly her time at Uni has gone. 


It was a relief that Saturday was a day that I did not have to be anywhere and since it was dry I decided that the Ercol rocking chair would be sanded down for the last time. I did not have any wood oil or wax polish handy so I rubbed it over with the stuff that is meant for re-treating wax jackets and it looks fine. It is not a professional job by any means but it looks serviceable and will have cushions on it which will hide the tiny areas of dark stain that I could not completely remove. I have to decide whether it has white or navy screen-printed cushions – my preference is for blue but Mo, the upholstery expert disagrees;) I have bought a cheapo-nasty roller blind and a basic lamp because I plan to make a mini room set of screen-printed fabrics to display at the end of year Grays student show.


Bit by bit, I constructed all 20 Rainbow Warli blocks but they are not all exactly the same size. My large table is not big enough to lay them all out so I need a still, dry day to lay them on the grass to decide what order they should go in. I intend to fill the gaps with skinny pieced strips until it all more or less fits together, which will be a bit of a jigsaw. Why I can’t work to an exact size is beyond me…


Taking Advantage of a Dry Spell


We have had a week of unusually settled, dry, January weather so I put the Ercol rocking chair outside to try and strip off the rest of the dark wood stain. It was a much more complicated job than I had anticipated with so many fiddly struts and the only thing that really worked was sanding it all off. I used an electric Mouse sander and tried out a lookalike Dremel which was useless. Purists would have done the job by hand to avoid scratching the wood but that would have taken months. I applied a dry paste of Barkeepers Friend which contains oxalic acid to lighten the wood and it is almost there apart from a LOT more sanding still to do to get rid of the roughness, after which I should attempt to add some wax using wirewool.

Since I did not have any customer quilts to keep me busy I got into a routine of joining pieces of the Rainbow Warli quilt together in sections of very approximately 20” square, plus or minus a couple of inches. I have not ironed any of the sections, just relying on finger pressing to get the seams to match up. I will not actually be able to press anything on the right side of the quilt because of the giant sequins, silver lamé, glitter vinyl and screenprint foil. Progress seems to be going steadily and I have sewn 10 out of 16 sections. I daresay it will be challenging to get all of the slightly different sections to fit together and keep it all looking a bit haphazard but it is really nice to work on such a brightly coloured project in the middle of winter.


I developed 4 screens at my evening class, including transferring one of my original designs onto my own screen instead of one that belongs to the art school. One screen had not developed clearly, possibly due to an extra thick area of emulsion so it will have to be redone but I was pleased with the test prints. I took the huge screen home to print white ink onto indigo fabric but I did not remember to borrow a huge squeegee so I ordered my own. The first print was perfect but I did not leave enough space to print the next one so ended up with an annoying overlap. It is not easy to wash large screens at home so I took it outside and hosed it off with cold water, soaking myself in the process. I had enough indigo fabric to attempt 2 more prints – I flooded part of the first one and missed a bit one the second one. Screenprinting with such a huge screen and thick, opaque ink really can be a hit and miss affair!

I am trying to think of simple makes that I could sell using my doily prints so I made a prototype elasticated bowl cover. It is actually rather smart and could almost pass as a beret;)


January Get Set Go


I took full advantage of Freya’s last week at home and worked on as many projects as possible. In addition, Nella had a session with an English tutor, started some psychotherapy and we both concentrated hard in our second session with a German teacher. 

I printed a dye paste onto 2 pieces of lovely Irish linen at the screen-print class but had mixed results. One of the prints was really patchy, which was disappointing but I will attempt to print additional doilies on top to make it more like a fabric. The other one was crisper but there were flooded areas at the edges. So far, the heavy muslin/calico has produced the best print. It is my intention to make new covers for an Ercol rocking chair that needs to be stripped back from a ratty dark brown. The prints are bigger than the cushions need to be so I can get away with some smudges but it is frustrating to “ruin” an expensive piece of fabric.


There are not many weeks left of the course so I have to get a move on to draw and develop any new designs and get pieces made for the student exhibition. I had hoped to make a ceramic lamp base imprinted with doily designs but I will just buy a plain base and make a doily print shade. IF there is time left I also hope to cover a footstool in indigo fabric printed with white doilies but it will need to be quilted as it is very thin… Oh, and I want to print a roller blind too;)

Freya and I tried using paint stripper to take off the chair’s dark brown stain and lacquer but it did not do much. It needs some serious sand-papering, for which I will need some dry weather. 

I made a start on the Rainbow Warlis at last. It is a tricky quilt to lay out because I did not make a plan of course, just a load of blocks in different sizes. I want it to go together spontaneously as there are too many bits to set out in an organised way. I think I am going to make 16 blocks around 20” square so I have shared out the bits into piles to work on smaller sections at a time, hoping that it will all miraculously fit together in the end with the aid of some filler strips and a lot of fiddling around!

Dyeing to get into 2020


We had a quiet New Year without parties, fireworks or fuss, which suited me fine. I took advantage of having Freya home to keep Nella company while I got on with a couple of small projects. I spent a whole afternoon reorganising the IKEA drawers under my quilt machine. There was so much haberdashery stuffed into them that some of them would not shut because things had fallen down the back and caused a jam. I came across a few things that had got lost in plain sight and wondered why I had so many packets of laminating pouches.


I had a go at dyeing some plain cotton poplin fabric to see if I could get close to some of the vibrant Indian Rubia fabrics that I am using for my Rainbow Warli quilt. I did not have the right colours in Hungarian dyes to use my preferred method of dyeing in the washing machine so I made up large quantities of soda ash and salt solution and attempted cold Procion dyeing in plastic bags. It was difficult to gauge the intensity of the dye, even when dipping in pieces of paper towel to see what was developing. I left the pieces soaking for 24 hours but much of the colour washed out. The results were not awful but they were not nearly as strongly dyed as I had hoped.

I tried again with a couple of the colours in a large pan of very hot water and the hues definitely fixed better but were still not the right shades so I caved and ordered a selection of plain dyed Rose & Hubble plains from Doughtys. The one colour that I really could not source or dye was a shade of pinky peach that I call “Jaipur pink”. I ordered some from an ebay seller in India, hopeful that it will match my original fabric. 

I sewed up some skinny strip sets to chop up into sashing so I hope to start putting the Rainbow Warlis together soon…


For someone who cannot grasp crochet, I seem to be doing pretty well with macrame. I knotted together a hanging vase/large jar holder. I don’t really have a purpose for it, I just felt like having a go. I used the leftover strands to make a zig-zagged rope bowl to collect scraps beside my sewing machine. I’m not sure that I can think of many practical uses for macrame without turning my house into a retro hipster pad. The only thing putting me off making a hammock is that a rough guide to how much cord required for each project is that you need to reel off roughly 8 times the length of the finished item so presumably a 6 foot hammock would need 48 feet of cord for EACH strand! I should definitely set my sights on something smaller;)