ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labour Day

I hope you too enjoyed the blue skies this Labour Day weekend.  I've been playing with my new zoom lens and macro lens.  I still haven't shot any earth-shattering images, am not sure what I'm doing, but am playing and learning.  I do think the zoom lens is the greatest thing since sliced bread because it brings far away subjects quite close, like the leaves above, which belong to a quite tall tree and were quite far from me.  I'm planning on using it to capture some wood buffalo when I visit the Northwest Territories.

Labour Day has always seemed a little bit like the New Year to me.  It must be because of all the years I spent working in universities and colleges where everything begins fresh in September.  Labour Day also, in my mind, seems to mark the start of autumn.  Indeed, hints of autumn are present in the cooler nights and the touches of red I'm finding on leaves.
Last week my sister visited for a few days.  She goes to bed early, while I'm a night owl.  After she turned in, I ironed at least 20 meters of hand-dyed fabric every night.  After 6 nights it was all finished, and didn't seem like the big job of more than 120 meters that it was.  The benefit of doing the ironing yourself is that you get to see the fabric, unveiled in all its glory, after a good pressing job.  I ended up keeping at least 12 meters for myself.  How could I possibly help myself?
I picked some colours that I either don't have very much of, some things that really spoke to me, and a couple of colours I didn't have in my stash.  This happens several times a year, so you can imagine my collection of hand-dyed fabrics. 
Labour Day weekend contained several hours of cutting, folding, and some bundling and labelling.  I'm pretty pleased with myself as I am ready before the events where I will sell these fabrics.  My store is really full now.  Recently I have once again heard a lot of talk about using only pure dye colours (no mixed dye colours).  Wanna know the secret to my lovely hand-dyes?  I use pure colours AND mixed colours.  Let the dye police find me if they want, I don`t care.  In every field there are police ... quilt police (the ones that criticize workmanship), art police (the ones that go around proclaiming your work either is or isnt`art), and dye police (using mixed colours is wrong and inferior).  Yes I know all the arguments for and against using mixed colours, and I still choose to use them!
Lately I've been thinking about my eco footprint, becoming more conscious about not wasting.  So I've started saving the little bits I used to waste, like the not-really-usable strips that get cut off when I trim the fabric to size for selling.  I`m talking strips so thin they are barely more than a seam width.
Then there are the little folded strips that form when I cut down the middle fold of the fabric to make 4 fat quarters out of a meter.  I use some of these to tie colour series bundles together, but the rest used to go to waste.
Of course that is all in addition to the nice-sized strips that get cut off and saved when I cut the fabrics to size.  This pile is just from the last dyeing session.  I have bins of these, and can't quite keep up with using them.  Truth be told, I haven`t even used any in so long I can`t remember when it was!

Oh and lets not forget those lovely scrunchy bundles of loose threads that come out of the dryer.  I go through periods of saving them and periods of tossing them in the garbage.  I`ve started a big ziplock bag of them, think they are quite beautiful but have no idea what to do with them (a pin cushion?).  Any suggestions??  Yes, I used my macro lens here.
I replenished some of my Textile Temptation packs ... raspberry, pomegranate, creme caramel, and spiced pumpkin!  What a saucy colour combination, I sure would love to make something with it.  Here are the cheesecloth pieces.
OK, it is highly possible that one of the Creme Caramel packages will not be going out my door.  Just check out the rich velvet in the upper left hand corner of the photo below.
I`m pleased to report I`ve spent three full days working on my latest quilt.  All the units are finished, and need to be attached to a background, and then the piece will be quilted.  That is my job for this week, in addition to preparing for my Yellowknife classes and other classes coming up after that.  I`ve decided to enter the new quilt in a show that has a publication ban, so I can`t show you a photo until the piece is either a) rejected, or b) the show opens.  Given that the odds of getting into this show are about one in 12 or 14, you will likely be seeing it after the rejection.  But we are hopeful!.
OK OK, here`s a little sneak preview of a small section of the quilt.  I really have a hard time keeping my secrets.  But that`s all for now!
Let me close with two macro photos, taken at the Mer Bleu Conservation Area, about 20 minutes from my home.  We spent a good deal of time there Saturday afternoon, testing the camera lenses.
Wouldn`t the colours on this monarch caterpillar make a great quilt?  I think by September it should have also spun a cocoon because it will be autumn now when the butterfly hatches.  
Enjoy your back to work or school or the studio, wherever you are returning tomorrow.



  1. And a big Happy Birthday to you! (Saw that on a Facebook notice)

    Your hand-dyes look amazing. I think I remember your saying you use cotton sateen, right? Since using those from Heidi I'm a big fan of sateen.

    If your caterpillar builds a cocoon, try to protect it with netting. I usually plant parsley just to attract these caterpillars, but the birds are very watchful and few get to hatch.

  2. Thank you Martha! The happy birthdays for the big 51 started arriving a few days early, the day is tomorrow.

    I use a fabric called "combed cotton lawn". It is the same base fabric that Hoffman uses for their batiks, so it is very high thread count and has a lovely sheen.

    I'd love to protect that caterpillar, but he is at the conservation area so I probably couldn't even find him again. When I was a kid I used to pick all the cocoons off the sheaves of wheat and collect them in a Lownie's chocolate box, watch them hatch, and help the new butterflies fly away. One of my fonder memories of childhood!

    Hope you are well!


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