Monday, May 25, 2009

Another Book Review

After writing yesterday’s post about the way I tend to read craft books, I challenged myself to slow down and read the next one carefully, from beginning to end. Fortunately, I had the perfect book for this type of exercise.

I’ve made a couple of quilts that I stitched first, then colored with either Neocolor crayons or fabric paints. I really enjoy this “backwards” process and have been wanting to pursue it further. So when I ran across Stitching to Dye in Quilt Art: Colour, Texture, and Distortion by C. June Barnes, I knew I had to have it. I glanced at it when it came in the mail, but it wasn’t until I was scouting around for my next project that I remembered I had it.

Barnes’ book includes good, basic information about dyeing fabrics, free-motion stitching, the types of fabrics that work best with her techniques, etc. In addition, there are two extended technique sections in the book, both packed with information and exercises. The first section deals with stitching various fabrics together, adding free-motion stitching, then dyeing the quilt.

The second section was a surprise for me, since I primarily bought the book for the previous technique. In the second section, Barnes details ways to differentially shrink fabric, which I’ll come back to later in this post.

The book includes exercises that progress in difficulty, so after reading through to the end of Exercise 1, I decided to jump in and give it a try. I pulled out various white, off-white, and cream-colored fabrics and pieced them together. I made my quilt sandwich and free-motion quilted it using cotton thread so that it, along with the fabric, would take dye. Here’s a pic of the small quilt:


I then dyed the quilt in a mix of Sky Blue & Magenta:


As you can see, the various fabrics take the dye differently and create an interesting mix of textures and colors. Barnes recommends that you dye your pieces flat in a shallow tray or pan, or in a large bucket. I didn’t have a pan large enough, so I tried squishing this piece into a container and periodically squeezing the dye through. As you can see, I ended up with a few mottled spots, so before I try the technique again I’ll head to the store for a large, flat tray. This piece is now ready to be further embellished; Barnes also includes ideas in her book for additional embellishments.

As I mentioned, the second half of the book focuses on layering different kinds of fabric that shrink at different rates, stitching them, shrinking them through washing and drying, then dyeing them. For the first exercise in this section, I started with wool and layered silk charmeuse over it. I heavily stitched the piece with cotton thread (Barnes includes some excellent information on the effects of various kinds of stitching)


then washed and dried the piece


I haven’t yet dyed this, but I’m very happy with the texture that resulted. Barnes includes a lot of information in this section of the book about various inclusions to get particular effects, so I’m anxious to continue these exercises, as well as those in the first half of the book.

I’m really thrilled with this book and looking forward to continuing to work through it. In fact, I’m so excited about it that I’m considering starting a group to work through the exercises in the book and to share questions, ideas, concerns, and results with each other. I won’t be able to do that until I’ve recovered from my surgery, but let me know if you’re interested in participating, and I’ll get back to you within a few weeks.

Stitching to Dye in Quilt Art: Colour, Texture, and Distortion by C. June Barnes is available on Amazon. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the books you can “look inside” of, but you can find more information through that link.

Addendum: Although there's no "look inside" feature on the US version of Amazon for this book, Sue left a comment on this post letting me know that sometimes books published in the UK have the “look inside” feature on Amazon UK. So for anyone who wants to take a look inside Stitching to Dye, click here.


Jeanne Beck said...

Thank you for presenting a summary of this book and illustrating some of the innovative processes. The possibilities are exciting! Nice to discover your blog as well.

pcoxdesign said...

Looks like another book I need to investigate! I have done something like this in the past. I loved your examples and summary. Have fun experimenting.

Cathy Bargar said...

Thanks for this review! On the strength of your enthusiasm, I've gone ahead and ordered it - will be very excited to have something to look forward to after all the fuss of my son's wedding next month!

Sue said...

Love your samples! I discovered that some of those British needlework books have the 'look inside' feature if you look them up on

lisa said...

very cool - I'd be interested in joining a group with you to work through the exercises, this looks like my cuppa tea!!