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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Prairie Windflowers

Bragging time! My quilt, Prairie Windflowers won a blue ribbon at the Nebraska State Fair and received the Pride of Nebraska award. The quilt is 33" X 41".

About my quilt:
I do a lot of long-distance driving across Nebraska and the other Plains states. Along with the hawks that sit on both natural and man-made hunting perches, I see windmills. The non-working windmills are harder to spot, with their missing blades and the overgrowth of vines. The working windmills make me think of a single flower, growing high above the other plants, blades turning or not, dependent on the wind “sweeping down the plain”. These are my “windflowers”.

While windmills are typically solitary figures on the landscape I’m passing at 60 MPH, there are also windmills near my house in Omaha. I am intrigued by this juxtaposition of urban and rural within the largest city in Nebraska.

One windmill is alongside the trail I walk almost every day. The trail winds along the outer edge of an urban neighborhood less than ten years old. I photograph another windmill in a park while my kids play just a few feet away on bright plastic modern playground equipment. These and other urban windmills remind us “city slickers” that Nebraska is more a land of wide-open space than suburbia.

This quilt combines a solitary rural Nebraska windmill with a splash of urban Omaha flowerbed. The background fabric was created using a can of rusty nails taken from an old barn on a farm handed down through at least three generations of Nebraskans. (A farm with a non-working windmill.) The windmill is some distance from the viewer, as are most that we see. The flowers, on the other hand, are seen at close range, perfect for viewing the subtle variations in color and shape.

Look for both windmills and flowers on your next drive!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kool Aid, Kool Aid!

While visiting my parents, my Mom and I decided to Kool Aid dye a skein of handspun yarn (100% wool). Our yarn is heavy with lanolin. I wonder how much that will affect the color? Mom was sure she had a bunch of Kool Aid packets in the house, but we couldn't find them. When facing the decision to buy .20 Kool Aid or .10 WalMart brand, I decided an experiment to compare them was in order. I bought six packets of each, Grape flavor.

We divided the skein roughly in half. Each half was put into a glass baking pan, covered with warm water and left to soak for 45 minutes. This was an arbitrary length of time - having the wool saturated is the goal. After the excess water was gently squeezed out, the yarn was dyed using 6 packets of "dye", two glugs of white vinegar and enough water to cover.

After each dish went through a "microwave for 2 minutes, wait, microwave for 2 minutes" cycle, the WalMart brand dye had mostly absorbed into the yarn. The water in the yarn with the Kool Aid dye was still very dark. It was almost 10 pm, so we left the yarn/water to cool overnight.

The next morning, I squeezed out the excess water. I had to rinse the yarn quite a bit, which I hadn't expected. (After doing additional Kool Aid dyeing, I realize I should repeat microwave/cool cycles until the dye is absorbed into the yarn. With the heavy lanolin, that would never have happened.) I hung the skeins of yarn off the side of the deck to dry.

This picture shows the yarn after dyeing with a skein of the original color. The color was much weaker than I expected, which I attributed to the lanolin. There was no noticeable difference in color when I compared the Kool Aid dyed yarn to the WalMart brand dyed yarn (no picture)

When I got home, I scoured the dyed yarn. I redyed one of the skeins using two packets of Grape flavor Kool Aid. (Mom found her Kool Aid stash & sent it home with me.) I did the heat/wait cycle until the water was clear - really a light blue rather than clear. No rinsing was necessary. This picture shows (L-R) original yarn, heavy lanolin content dyed yarn, and scoured, re-dyed yarn.

No grapes were hurt during these dye sessions.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cincinnati, Pigs, and Ice Cream

Last weekend, I was in Cincinnati, Ohio for the Zonta Quilts For Change show. I won't bore you with details about the low attendance. Instead, I'll bore you with details of the evening I spent with other vendors. I had met Roni (Sunny Bunny Designs) on-line on QuiltArt and we planned to meet in person at this show. We met during setup and made plans to go out to dinner the next night. I invited the vendors from the booth next to mine (Yoder's) and we took two vehicles to Hyde Park Square.

I rode with Roni, who never uses her turn signal and knows the back way to get around rush hour traffic! We ate at an Italian place called Indigo. I had a veggie eggplant lasagne that was wonderful! We wandered around after eating to see and be seen. We would have blended right in, except that we didn't have a dog with us, and we were talking and laughing quite loudly. I didn't see anyone else wearing Crocs either. Maybe we weren't blending as well as we thought!

We window-shopped at the boutiques around the square. We went into one shop, but after seeing the price on their $245 jeans, I didn't bother asking about the multi-stranded black pearl necklace or the green leather bag. I wanted them both. Pout.

When I saw this painted pig, I insisted that a passerby take our picture with the pig.
Here we are: Jeannette, Olga, Roni, Julia, and Alice. Now, how often do you picture an Olga wearing a traditional sari? She always does!

Afterward, we had Really Great Ice Cream at Graeter's. I rode with Olga back to the Cinta Center. Roni doesn't use her turn signals!