ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, March 28, 2016

It's a Sweat Shop!

Wow, has it been like a sweat shop at my home the past two weeks. After returning from my teaching trip two weeks ago today, I hit the ground running! As of today, I've dyed 250 meters of fabric. Almost 200 are ironed (thanks to some help from my husband). I'd say that about 180 meters of it has been cut up into fat quarters, with much left to be folded and bundled. I decided to offer kits at my workshops at Salon 2016 and Vermont Quilt Festival, since students will be travelling. So if you are registered in my classes at either of these shows, I would love to know if you need a kit so I know how many to dye.

I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the process of dyeing fabric today. It is a boatload of work! While I love dyeing fabric, I am not so enamored of it when it means dyeing the same colours over and over (as I must when preparing kits), nor am I enamored of the volume we've dyed in the past two weeks. I am truly not sure how much longer I will be able to do this kind of physical labour. But we will get past this busy period and life will get quieter again.

We start with white cotton. A lot of white cotton, that I rip into one meter pieces (it is easier to control the process on one meter than on 4 or 8 or 16!).

The dyes and chemicals then need to be measured and mixed.

Dyes are worked through the fabric, and they are batched scrunched up in small containers for about 24 hours. The scrunching gives them that nice mottled look we are after.

After the fabric is finished batching, it gets a sink rinse in cold water, and then I soak it in my washing machine overnight in cold water. This loosens a lot of the excess dye.

The next day the fabric gets washed in hot hot hot water 2-3 times, depending on the intensity of colour I'm starting with. 

I hang all my hand-dyed fabrics to dry. They dry straighter and less wrinkled that way, and can be ironed in a fraction of the time it takes to iron a fabric dried in the dryer.

Greens for the hosta kits

Pinks and greens for the peony kits.

Then the ironing begins!

I have tree collage classes coming up in Buckhorn and Fergus, Ontario in the next couple of months, so I decided it would be a good idea to dye some neutrals since I was almost completely out!!

After ironing, the fabric gets cut to size and folded for sale as fat quarters or to be used in kits. You can see peony, poppy and hosta fabrics folded and waiting to be kitted here.

So you can see how much labour goes into producing hand-dyed fabrics, and that is why they are twice the price of store-bought fabrics printed off-shore (usually in Asian countries). They are also unique because they are not mass-produced. I had to make this 2-3 weeks at home count and really put the pedal to the metal because I'll be off to Whitehorse in a week, and thereafter am fairly solidly booked until June. Tomorrow I reward myself with a massage :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

From Ingersoll to Hamilton: Another Week in Southern Ontario

It's been a busy 8 days. Last Saturday, after two lectures and a workshop with the Oxford Quilters' Guild in Ingersoll, Ontario, I returned to give my workshop on hosta leaves. The workshop took place at the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre. If you ever find yourself in the town of Ingersoll, do try to visit this Centre. It contains a Gallery featuring regular exhibitions by members, a gift shop selling works by members, a pottery studio, fibre arts room, and classroom space. A wonderful resource for the surrounding community.

Here are just a few photos of the class at work.

My hand-dyed fabrics (especially the greens!) were popular!
After class I returned to my sister's house in Waterloo (about an hour from Ingersoll) and spent most afternoons at the hospital with my father. On Wednesday I headed to Hamilton to give a lecture for the Hamilton Quilters' Guild.
Lolly Chalice showed up from St. Catharines for the lecture and showed these two wonderful quilts that she made using my Northcott fabric lines.

I returned to teach a workshop for the Hamilton Quilters' Guild on Saturday. It was another class of hosta leaves.
It was great to have so many windows in the classroom as it made it much easier for everyone to see their pattern through their fabrics and helped make it easier to build their leaves.

Linda was the first to finish!
A huge thank you to the Oxford Quilters' Guild and the Hamilton Quilters' Guild for their warm hospitality. Your help with transporting my things in and out of venues was most appreciated! Thank you for taking such great care of me!

I am heading home to Ottawa tomorrow and will be spending the next couple of weeks in my dyeing dungeon. I have a lot of dyeing, ironing, and cutting to do! It seems I've created a monster of sorts. I published patterns and now many students want kits. We'll see how this goes. The number of kits I have to produce in the next 3 months is rather daunting! Wish me luck!

Friday, March 4, 2016

My Week

It has been a busy week with lots of travel.

On my way out of town on Sunday I stopped to visit a show at the City of Ottawa's Atrium Gallery. My friend Sharon Collins has a solo show of 33 of her textile artworks on display until March 16. I am so glad I made the time! It is a wonderful and cohesive body of work. The complexity of colour with the layering of hand-dyed silk organza, and the way light seems to emanate from each piece, really appeals to me. The works are minimalist in nature, minimally stitched, and that is refreshing. Definitely no longer art quilts but TEXTILE ART. Some of the colours made my heart sing and some made me contemplative.

I wish I could share more detailed photos, but there are no photos allowed inside the gallery. I took these outside the  gallery just to entice you to see the show.

On Monday I felt like a world traveller as I drove through Paris and passed by signs for Scotland and Delhi, on my way to Vittoria (near Simcoe), Ontario to visit the Norfolk County Quilters Guild. Yes all of those places are small towns in Ontario. Had a great time with guild members and made it back to my sister's place in Waterloo just as the storm was hitting.
Molly brought her finished poppy from my class with the group 5 years ago. 
There was also quite a shopping frenzy at my store of hand-dyed fabrics and patterns.

The storm was brief, and we enjoyed a beautiful and sunny day on Wednesday, although it was crisp and cold. In between my lecturing and teaching I am staying with my sister in Waterloo, andk have been spending time with my father who has been hospitalized for a few weeks now. He looks good, his vitals are good, and he isn't in physical pain, but after several falls he has lost his confidence to walk and refuses to do so. He is despairing at his loss of independence. While he wants to die and keeps repeating that he is too old for this world, (91), I don't think the universe is finished with him yet. He is on a waiting list for a geriatric program at another hospital.

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning I gave lectures at the Oxford Quilters Guild in Ingersoll, Ontario, with a half day workshop on Wednesday afternoon. A long time ago when I decided to make art quilts, my two major Canadian inspirations were Laurie Swim and Reta Budd. Well guess who showed up at my lecture and workshop? Yes, that's Reta Budd in the middle, now retired from making fantastic landscape quilts. On the left is Jean Hillis, the guild's Program Coordinator (you will be seeing some of her work again at the NJS this year).

I've included two of Reta's works here that I was able to find on-line.

I will be teaching one more workshop for the Oxford Quilters' Guild tomorrow. Next week I am off to Hamilton.