Down The Rabbit Hole I Go!

Down The Rabbit Hole I Go!

For the last 6 weeks I have been immersed in an online course through Maiwa’s School of Textiles ( called Print and Paint with Natural Dyes. It’s been quite intense, but I have learned quite a bit about printing with natural dye pastes. We used powdered dyes. I wasn’t cooking up anything from scratch although I was crushing up cochineal bugs with my mortar and pestle! Ewww!! Quite often I felt like a mad scientist mixing up various ingredients to use the pastes in various mordant processes and cooking up various things in large vats. There are 9 modules with the 9th being a wrap up of what we have done. I’m just finishing up module 8 at this writing and getting ready to prepare my citric acid discharge paste that will be used on fabrics first soaked in a gallnut tannin bath and then half of the fabric went into an alum mordant bath and the other half went into an iron mordant bath so we could develop more samples. I’m super excited to see how all the samples turn out!

Here is my colorful array of dyes.

Some of the pastes were fixed by steaming.

The natural dyes produce some amazing colors.

I tried to paint designs on all the pieces with the idea of being able to use them whole. The long strips are probably going to become table runners. Everything is still wrinkled as everything still needs to be soaked in Synthropol once they cure a bit longer.

This was an iron mordant paste on a myrobalan tannin. The lower photo is using a wood block. I have great respect for artisans that work with the wood block patterns! Such precision to get the right amount of paste onto the block, the right amount of pressure and getting them lined up properly!

This was a long sampler that was painted with various ratios of alum to iron mordant pastes with 100% iron on the left and 100% alum on the right.  The sample was then divided into 4 pieces and then each piece was dipped into its own dye bath of either cochineal, buckthorn, pomegranate, or madder.

Just look at all the colors!

This one is the same alum/iron mordant paste fixed in a myrobalan bath.

It’s been great fun to learn this process. Maiwa has an online natural dye class becoming available in August that I may be taking. I would like to learn how to use natural dyes for the background fabrics I use for my tile quilts. They also show how to dye yarns and threads in that class as well as work with an indigo pot. Maiwa does a great job with their videos.

I’m having lots of fun in my studio!

I think I also promised to show you the quilt I made using the painted fabrics I made awhile back. Here are a few samples of those fabrics:

Here is the result of using 95% of the fabrics painted/marked/dyed by myself. I call it Snow Moon. It just got juried into a show called “CQA at 35” that will run July 15-Aug 28 at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum in LaConner, WA. USA ( It is 32 ½” wide x 37 ¾” tall.


And here is an update on what I call my “ruler” quilt (aka Welsh quilting) where I am using plastic rulers to machine quilt the design. This was my progress through the first round.

And here it is after the second round.

I have the third round cut out, but still need to mark the design onto the pieces before I start quilting it. I’ve been distracted from this project because of the other rabbit holes I’ve been going down! More on those in another blog post!

Hope you are all having as much fun learning and creating as I have been!

Tesi Vaara





20 thoughts on “Down The Rabbit Hole I Go!

  1. You have been busy Tesi!
    ‘Snow Moon’ is amazing – how did you achieve all that detail on a piece that size? Absolutely love it!

    Your lovely ruler quilt must take hours and make your eyes ache.

    The print and paint samples are gorgeous – fabulous colours and patterns. You’ll have quite a stash of unique fabrics for your quilting projects 🙂

    1. The ruler quilt process does make my eyes ache as well as my shoulders and neck! I think I’m learning that I don’t have to press down quite so hard on the ruler to keep it from slipping around. I just put more little rubber grip discs onto the underside of the ruler!

      Cutting out all those tiny pieces for my tile quilts is quite a Zen process for me. The different fabrics are fused to Wonder Under, then I draw the shapes onto the attached paper side and cut them out by hand. It’s nice to have fabric that has lots of color and/or pattern changes to it.

      Hopefully I’ll find uses for all the lovely samplers I made in the natural dye printing class. Some of the pieces are really lovely, color wise.

  2. What absolutely wonderful results. I just love the colours and the way you have used them. And what patience you have doing all that experimentation!

    1. I am really loving all the natural colors as well. They are so soft and muted.
      The Maiwa course has been a challenge and it’s been quite a time investment as well. It really pushed me to produce some pieces that I think I can use in my art work. I’m still not sure I understand all the chemistry going on, so still room to learn more!

  3. Wow Tesi! These pieces are stunning and, like Lyn, I was wondering how you achieved so much detail on Snow Moon.
    The course you’ve been doing sounds very interesting, as well as a lot of fun, and your results are wonderful.

    1. Thanks Karen. I am just having too much fun in my studio. Love it!

  4. That looks like a really interesting class. The range of color is amazing. I look forward to seeing how you use your samples.

    Snow Moon is stunning! Congratulations on it being juried into the show, well deserved.

    Your quilting is improving. Will you be using this type of quilting on your tile quilts?

    1. Hope you get to see Snow Moon at the quilt museum when you come. I didn’t mention it in my blog post but they accepted 2 other of my Full Moon quilts that I had entered into the same exhibition. Super stoked!
      I doubt I would use the rulers with my tile quilts. But you never know! If I did, I would have to design the tile positioning so I could have blank spaces for the quilting so you could see it. Could happen!

  5. I love seeing your results from this class. It is on my list of things i would like to do/learn.
    I absolutely love the ‘snow moon’ piece! Stunning work!

    1. Thanks! Working with natural dyes is quite a bit more work than using the Procion type dyes. Those dyes have their place and I love them as well. However, these natural dyes seem to connect me to nature. Take the leap, take the class lol! I always wanted to take a class from Maiwa but they booked out quickly. They were usually 5 day classes. Their online classes are a much more slow paced process and you get to keep the videos for 3 years. I’m kind of a slow learner so it has been great to be able to rewatch the videos several times.
      Glad you loved Snow Moon. It might be the last quilt from my Full Moon series, at least for the time being.

  6. Tesi, what fun you’ve been having! Fantastic work. That Snow Moon needs a blog post of its own to let us know how you created it 😀

    1. Hmmm a blog post on my process….maybe I can do that on my next tile quilt! I struggled with several design elements during the building of the Snow Moon. Some things came out as happy surprises. Like the emergence of my authentic Self which is portrayed by the wider blue lines depicting arms and legs.

  7. Is the quilting done by a long arm? What are the rulers called?’ Your painting samples must have taken such a long time. Good work!

    1. Hi Karen,
      The quilting is done on a domestic machine. I have a Bernina 770 at the moment with a 10″ throat. It hasn’t been too troublesome to quilt since the pieces aren’t that wide and get connected via sashing. I couldn’t imagine doing a whole large quilt using the rulers although I’ve seen videos of people doing it. Lots of patience. I have been using Westalee Rulers, high shank, although there are lots of different brands out there.
      My painting sessions were usually marathons. Once you have all the paste ready to go and are making a huge mess I found it easier to just paint up all the fabric they gave me in the kit that I bought for the class. One night I was in the studio until 10pm painting! Then, of course, you have cleanup…ugh!

  8. Wow Tesi, I am just posting your blog piece to Instagram so am a bit behind in my comments. Your quilts are out of this world when it comes to beauty. I would love to see more of them. They really are works of art.

    Your dye classes certainly produced beautiful results. Do you have a quilt design in the back of your mind in which you will use them? Looking forward to seeing more and thank you so much for sharing.

    Just checked out the link to the textile school. Can’t believe I was in its vicinity a few years ago when we took a holiday in Canada. I probably called in too but I was in and out of so many stores that day I can’t fully remember.

    1. Visiting Maiwa’s store is on my bucket list. Especially since I live fairly close to it!
      I don’t have a quilt in mind for any of the samples I made in this class although I may try to incorporate some stitch into some of them. I do plan on making some table runners with the longer pieces.
      I do need to get busy and focus on some more quilts. Snow Moon is the only one I have made so far this year.

  9. What a great number of samples you have to play with. I am sure they will appear in some future projects. the quilts are amazing. I am not surprised your quilt was accepted. I think some posts about how you go from concept to design to finished piece would be really interesting. Several posts, over how ever long it takes would be wonderful.

    1. Thanks Ann! I’ll see if I can post about my quilt process in a future blog. I don’t usually take too many photos of the concept process so it could be interesting.

  10. Tesi, WOW! Everything in your blog post, is stunning. I’m interested in learning more about this technique of natural dyeing. I have several books, and lots of natural dye powders…and my cochineal were crushed for me. 😆 The colors are so bright, and your layouts are to perfection…and then you add your quilts. I’m drooling…


  11. Thanks Capi! Aren’t those colors just scrumptious! And they all blend together so well. I would like to continue to study them and use them. I’m so happy I could add to your happiness!

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