Agitator or HE Washer: What’s Best for Dyeing Fabric

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This is the view inside my Whirlpool HE low-water-use top loading washing machine, which I purchased 2 years ago as it seemed like the thoughtful, responsible thing to do, given my overall concern for the environment.

The principle of the machine is to sense the amount of water needed per load of wash and then swish the fabric around, rather than manually select a fixed amount–low, medium or high–and then agitate. Since the machine has a pesky auto-lock feature I’ve never been able to peer inside and actually watch my clothes/fabric wash, another minor problem. Really who wants to wait to the end of wash cycle to get an idea of what the finished fabric might look like?

While I can’t see inside, the manufacturer shows a picture on the inside of the machine which shows what it looks like when clothes are being washed.

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For dyeing fabric, this machine is a poor choice. It often won’t sense when a small amount of fabric is inside. When my mom moved to her new home in Patagonia recently, I inherited her washer: an old fashioned top loading agitator. Which looks like this:IMG_0351

Above I’ve got 6 pieces of fabric about 1/3 yard each ready to wash.

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And, I can control the amount of water used. Just a low amount in this case. And as most of the dye has already been rinsed off once taken out of the dye-bath, the used water will be channeled to my flowerbed, not the sewer.

This is the current view of my backyard studio a.k.a. patio, where I often dye fabric; the gray-water from the washer only helps plants along, it was 104 degrees yesterday, our first really hot day of the summer.

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Moving Fabric

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If I get my appreciation and love of fabric from anyone, it would be my mom. Here is the contents of her sewing studio, and years of collected notions and bolts of fabric, on the back of my friend Bruce’s pick up truck. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a friend with a big truck when it comes time to moving.

I think I mentioned that my mom is moving to Patagonia. Here she is putting the last few things on the truck:

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Once loaded we headed to Patagonia to unload. Her sewing studio in her new home is shaping up:

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I will admit it took me a bit of time to adjust to the idea of my mother living in a manufactured home. Finally a good friend told me to stop using “manufactured” in a way that sounded pejorative. I realized I was possibly guilty of snobbery. Though I think really I was just having an adverse reaction to the wallpaper circa 1978. Not all the fabric fit in the sewing room so some went in the closet with the wallpaper:

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Moving day is tomorrow. I think after that I should be able to get started on a new art project. Finally.

Sabino Canyon Sunset Walk

It’s been unseasonably cool in Tucson this May; 20 degrees cooler during the day than usual. Hiking at Sabino Canyon, one of the best places in Tucson, is lush and cool, believe it or not; there’s water in the creek. Here’s my mom as we stopped to watch the sunset while walking there last night….

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…and here she is hiking out of the canyon…

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It’s been a rough year for her with my dad dying and then her motor vehicle accident in December when she broke her ankle, and needed surgery. She is looking pretty good. She’s sold her recently acquired house in Tucson, which looks like this…

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…to one in Patagonia, a 75 minute drive south-east of Tucson, which looks like this:

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The move will be in just a few weeks.

Studio Update

It’s very sad to be capable of making art quilts and have one’s life reduced to this:

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It’s Kaffe Fasset Fabric, which is very popular among quilters, especially in my local art quilt bee. I don’t see it; but, that doesn’t mean much. He’s very popular and succesful. My bee is making a quilt for Quilt for a Cause. We all are making blocks and this is my contribution.

I’m hoping to finally start on my new project soon and have been getting my sewing space ready. Here it is, still a mess but almost ready:

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My new project will not be teapots!

Organ Pipe National Monument Camping Trip

My mom and I drove the 120+ miles west of Tucson recently and camped at Organ Pipe National Monument. This is the view from the main campground, which has a frightening 220 camping spots, some for RVs w/generators, but despite the size it was quiet and peaceful. Here’s the view south to Mexico from our spot on the edge of the campground.  It’s a landscape straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel.

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Much of the monument was closed to visitors for the past 13 years due to violence related to the drug and human trafficking along the US/Mexico border. Last fall it re-opened. We drove to the very unique Quitobaquito springs, which is truly amazing. It doesn’t look like much, if you’re used to lots of water where you live; here’s my mom at the springs:

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However, you would probably never ever never find it in the middle of the desert, unless you had exact coordinates because everything looks the same out here. In the photo before, the springs are just a few hundred feet ahead, but you could easily walk right by them. There’s a cottonwood you can see that shows where the spring is, but it’s an introduced species, so in the era of the Conquistadors perhaps it was even more hidden.

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There’s something really magical about the desert. It’s quiet in a mysterious way.  The silence was welcome, given the anniversary we were recognizing. We’re already planning our return next spring.

Thomas R. Aylward: A Reflection One Year Later

This Thursday is the first anniversary of my father’s death. He died on March 26, 2015; he had malignant brain cancer.

In the year after his death, doing anything I liked to do–and liked blogging about–seemed like an alien concept or even a luxury; I was busy helping my mother run the family bakery in Sonoita (Monika’s Home Bakery), help her sell her house and sell the bakery, help her move to Tucson and buy a house, and finally, help her through a December 2014 motor vehicle accident in which she broke her ankle and 5 ribs, a tough trauma to overcome at age 73.

My dad had a seizure several months before he died, which is how he was diagnosed. The first MRI was just a dot in his brain; the second, just 4 weeks later, looked like a hazy donut-shaped cloud with fuzzy clusters.  He had surgery and then a day later had a seizure from which he never regained consciousness. My mom and 4 of my 5 siblings were at the hospice the day he died, but my dad managed to slip away in the one rare moment when no one was paying attention, while my brother John had this Joao Gilberto song playing on his laptop. My dad as many of you know loved to play guitar and played a few Bossa Nova tunes.

Here’s a photo of him with me and my mom at the bakery just a few weeks before he died; I think we all look exhausted, which would be accurate:

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When thinking about his symptoms I’m reminded of Rainer Ptacek, my favorite musician in Tucson when I was 17 but musically precocious enough to appreciate his music and old-enough appearing to get into bars; his sound was quite sophisticated and magical sleepy Tucson in the early 80s. He had seizures and brain cancer too, but he was much younger when he died. You can listen here for a sense of his music, an inspiring sound during difficult times. I guess I have a new and unfortunate knowledge of brain cancer now. I have lots of old Rainer flyers for his shows back in the day and I know they could be used to make a really cool art quilt somehow.

My mom and I are headed out to Organ Pipe National Monument to camp out and have some peaceful time in the desert to reflect on the year gone by. My mom can walk again, and drive. It’s been a long year. It’s going to be good to get back into art-making. Photos of our trip to be posted. I look forward to sharing them with you all.