Rhonda Blasingame’s Thread Painting Class

As I signed up for this class, I remembered a day-long class my friend Paramjeet Bawa did one March in her bright-with-natural-light basement, hours of instruction, a little bit of several techniques. I remember thread painting a tree – my first experience using zig-zag in quilting. The best part of that class was crossing the boundaries, stepping outside the rules; Paramjeet encouraged us to TRY NEW THINGS and not to be afraid of failure.

Rhonda Blasingame has the same grin; you can tell that she is never happier than when she is ‘working,’ and that she loves her work so much that much of it is play. She will jump into anything, and isn’t afraid to fail in search of something that will work.

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Sometimes when you take one of these classes, you learn something about yourself that you didn’t know. I learned that I don’t like branching out of colors I think go together. I didn’t know this! Rhonda looked at a piece I was ‘painting’ and suggested a color I would never have chosen. When I tried it, it was OK, but there is something in me that did not want that color there.

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What was very cool was that I saw beginners take what she had taught them and run with it. I could see the delight on their faces as they went beyond, as they added colors and ended up with a great product.

I admire Rhonda for her technical knowledge – and her ability to jump beyond. I love the way she sees things differently. I love the way she prevailed over our circumstances – we were in a indifferently lit room and – on one of the hottest days of summer – the air conditioner was struggling, and failing. We were a hot mess, but Rhonda soldiered on, and we learned.

Another cool thing about these classes, for people like me who are lacking creativity in some areas, was that I saw the lady next to me using a shiny lavender that looked metallic; it reminded me how much I liked silver, so I tried thread painting with a metallic and love the way it looks. I know Rhonda could take it to another level entirely, but knowing my own limitations, I am delighted with how this part is turning out.

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Cindy Needham Workshops

In the midst of a crazy schedule full of house guests, I had signed up for two workshops with Cindy Needham, workshops I wanted to attend so badly that I abandoned my house guests to their own devices and attended.

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The first, on Antique Linens, showed many many ways of taking fragile old linens, cleaning them up, stabilizing them and underlining them to show them off to their best advantage. It was worth every minute.

The second workshop, another all day affair, was on Antique Feathers, but it was so much more. It was about creating heavily quilted backgrounds which allow the not-so-heavily quilted areas to pop out and catch the eye.

First, she gave us permission to make wonky feathers, and taught us several techniques for rescuing their wonkiness:

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Cindy had prepared batts using silk duppioni and a wool batting for us to work with to see how different textures and weights affect our look (remember this is a workshop, so I am showing you my very imperfect results knowing that mistakes are how we grow!)

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She gave us a lot of materials, and ideas for close quilting in the backgrounds using grids:

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A lot of times, you take a workshop and think “I spent a day of my time for this??” but I would take a Cindy Needham workshop again in a heartbeat. She taught more than I can absorb, gave us extra on extra, and I will have months of homework to even begin to master some of the techniques she taught. She is a GREAT instructor, and a lot of fun.

I told her if she ever gets an invitation to the Quilt Expo in Kuwait, to go! Kuwait would love her, and she would love Kuwait!

Hand Dyeing Class

“Why would you want to dye your hands?” she asked, looking at my very purple fingers. Actually, I had been wearing gloves, but in the process of twisting and tying a piece of fabric, I had taken them off and forgotten to put them back on before plunging the fabric into the dye-bath.

This class was so much fun. If I had one complaint, it would be only that for all she taught, for all the supplies and for all the printouts and wisdom, she charged too little. She is an excellent teacher, and on top of the class, she fed us a delicious lunch. I would have paid much more. We had a lot of fun, and I learned a lot.

My gradations:

Aren’t they just yummy? If I were really going to get into dyeing, I would keep working to find that perfectly perfect blue purple; I love these colors, but they are just on the blue side of purple. I prefer being on the blue side to being on the red side, but I would love to achieve a more intense, deeper purple, just a shade less blue. . . That’s just me being me, wanting just a little more precision. I’ll know it when I see it.

This one is overdyes; the original was aqua/turquoise, and I overdyed with my purple. Because I couldn’t wash the dye out for a couple days (you know, life gets in the way, or maybe it was just bad planning on my part) it is probably more purple than it would otherwise have been . . .

These are fine, as I use so many of these colors in star quilts and sea quilts. 🙂

Last, we did a jar with layers, mine were green, turquoise and purple, but again, I think leaving them for three days probably skewed the mix. Still, I love the results:

The truth is, I know what the layers were, but when I look at the results, the only one I am sure of is that the top one was the bottom, green, layer. I can’t be sure which is which of the middle and last.

A Workshop on Dyeing

“It’ll be fun!” my friend said, telling me about a class being taught through the Kuwait Textile Arts Association.

“Ummm. I don’t think so. I don’t like getting all messy,” I said, hating myself even as I said it for sounding so prissy.

“You know how much fabric we buy that she (the instructor) makes – we might as well learn how to do it ourselves,” she went on, encouraging me. She knows I will give in; sometimes my first response is just negative.

So there we were, in a sun-drenched location, on one of the prettiest days in Kuwait, four of us in our raggedy clothes because yes, it was going to get a little messy. The instructor made it all so easy – charts with exact measurements, equipment labled with how much to add of what . . . it was fun, and mostly, it was easy. We are all totally into color, and we got to do a little experimentation.

First, we chose one color and did gradations, six fabrics from very light to very dark. I asked if I could use two colors, blue-violet and a little black, because I wanted to end up with a very Dark Iris color, and I wanted cold icy blues to dark cold purples. The results exceeded my every expectation:

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I wish you could see the entire pieces – they have so much flow, motion and texture. Perfect for a cold, wintery quilt with sparks of green, blue and even turquoise in the icy purple. I could see snow capped mountains, icy streams, distant mountains, rising mists . . . these are perfect Alaskan colors.

We worked in teams, and as we worked on my partner’s colors, a spoon flipped, and the cup full of dye spun out of her hand, spiralling the spatter on me, the wall, the table, the floor – it was everywhere, a brilliant sapphire blue. I was wearing my oldest jean skirt (I could barely zip it) so honestly, it just didn’t matter. It took us forever to clean it all up. My poor friend kept saying “Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry,” and finally, as we were both down on our hands and knees sopping up sapphire blue I started laughing and said “Friend, I am down here on my knees just thanking God it was YOU that did it and not me!” If we hadn’t been laughing so hard, we probably could have cleaned up faster, but even the spill was a lot of fun. I had blue toes when I got home! I looked like something out of Braveheart!

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The next exercise we did had to do with color families, using two dyes, six fabrics, and varying the proportions from one end of the spectrum to the other. I chose yellow to fushia. The results totally wowed me:

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And then – the grand finale – direct application dye. We had squirt bottles, and could apply the dye wherever and however we wanted. We could mix, we could scrunch, we could try anything. It was, it was like being a kid again. My result is like something out of the 1970’s – I totally love it!

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I seem to do a lot of quilts with seas in them, and my hands are itching to get busy on another one. These fabrics are inspiration for both sea and sand . . . love those orangey sand colors, too.

If you have a chance to take this class, grab it and run! It is SO much fun!

Duffle Bag Special

In the midst of utter chaos, I had an opportunity to take a class I’d really wanted to take. I had no time to take it. I had several other significant and compelling obligations.

Of course, I took the class.

I am so glad I did. No regrets, not one. I loved every minute of it.

The class was taught by one of the most feyly creative women I have met in the quilting world. She sees a new technique, and she grasps it intuitively. She makes gifted fabric choices, she is quick and capable, and she keeps working on variations of a pattern until she moves on to something else. She never does exactly the same thing twice. I am in total awe of her.

On top of all her talents, she is also very kind and very funny – what an amazing combination.

And look what I made. Yeh, it’s “only” a duffel bag! Yeah, right!