Archive for the ‘dyeing & painting’ Category

One of the things I’ve often found to be a great remedy for artistic blockage is fabric painting and dyeing. Painting more so than dyeing, truth to tell. Having completely depleted my hand-painted fabric supply over the past few months, I decided to have a go at some skies and oceans.

Normally I paint outside, with the mess factor weighing in heavily as  a reason. February in Newfoundland is not exactly….. warm, however, so I set up the studio for some inside work and turned up the heat a wee tad to speed drying.


I painted this lot on corrugated plastic sheets, which are light-weight, resilient, waterproof, flat and easily stored. These are 48″ square, which is a comfortable size for working with indoors in a small studio. When I’m not painting on them, I use them as design walls and pin pieces in progress to them.

As you can see, I had a successful day. This is only some of what was accomplished. I painted about eight metres of fabric, all told.

night skies
Night ocean and sky, drying.

Summer sky, drying.

My studio, waiting for the paint to dry!


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Over the last few days, I’ve been preparing summer stock for two of the shops I supply. Most places around here like to be in full swing by mid-May, so I generally aim to have things in their hands by mid-April.

This week has been a week of birches. I use hand-dyed cotton fabric (low water immersion dyes using Procion MX, in case you’re interested) for the backgrounds and fussy-cut the pieces for specific spots in the fabric. Wastage is minimal, however, as the smaller works (4.5″ squares, for instance) can make excellent use of sections of fabric that would look just plain wrong for larger backgrounds. Below are thumbnails of two of the pieces used:

7a 6b

The trees are a commercial (ugly as sin) fabric that, when cut into strips, looks not bad at all. I cut the strips freehand with a rotary cutter (yes, it’s tricky to get things even) and tend to cut from several different pieces of the same fabric so that the trees don’t all end up having the same curvature or the same repeats in the fabric print.

As you can see below, the background with the strips laid in place:


These will be cut into three panels each when finished, hence the somewhat odd arrangements of tree trunks.

When working in a series like this, I also streamline the process by cutting out fifty or a hundred trees at once and then arranging them afterwards to suit the individual composition. I’ve discovered that I don’t really like being a one-woman assembly line, churning out the same piece time after time. I prefer to work on a reasonable number of pieces that are of a similar theme in one go. This allows me more variety, less stultification and, most importantly, gives each piece the attention and space it needs to be original as it grows and evolves.

After laying the trees in place, I then hand-shade the trees to add curvature to the trunks. As you can see below, the effect is not only one of added depth, but also adds drama to the composition and enhances the effect of the trees moving towards the viewer, off the background. The work is built up another layer from the furthest visual point.

I’ve spent several days penning in the details on these tree pieces and can say with certainty that if the devil isn’t in the details, he sure as hell rejoices in their existence.  Small, refined motions of shading for days on end are not good for the body.

A shot of two smaller pieces showing the shading(these were two of my favourites from the week)


The effect is even visible from a distance in the larger pieces:

Shading done!

It’s interesting to see the contrast between shaded and unshaded trees in the same piece. The first shot below is half-shaded. The second shot is with shading complete.

before & after 3after entire

Today’s task is to pen in all the branches, layer the piece with stabiliser and push the whole batch towards completion. To that end I have to:

  • add branches
  • stabilise panels
  • cut panels into tryptiches
  • prepare backings and attach hanging devices
  • layer panels with backing and centre stiffener (plastic canvas is a wonderful stiffener for such things; inert, waterproof, doesn’t stain and won’t kill a sewing machine if you accidentally or purposefully sew through it. Cheap, too.)
  • stitch edges
  • attach cording
  • apply glue
  • apply foil for leaves (Foiling is always the last step for these pieces.)

The result will be a variation on this (apologies for the rotten picture):

green birches

With details looking like this (again, bad picture. Colours wrong. Sorry. Will photograph the current series properly when completed!):

blue birches detail 2

blue birches detail 1

blue birches detail 3

And some of the smaller pieces from a past rendition of this idea:

foiled birches

foiled birches many

So I’m off to work. Proper pictures will follow…..

a quickr pickr post

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Ah, I love having an chance to play with some new products. Recently I wandered through Kent Hardware store (Kent are the spawn of Irving, a New Brunswick company) and discovered that they are ceasing to carry the Pebeo line of art supplies. The remainder of the paints were seriously discounted (I paid $1.30 CDN for a $7 bottle) and included some of the silver glitter finish and the expandable paints. Score!

The silver glitter finish isn’t bad at all. It’s basically glitter in some sort of acrylic medium suitable for use on fabric. You can paint it on already painted and dried fabric and the base dries clear. You can also mix it in with the other acrylic-based paints. Opaque paints will obscure the glitter a good bit (unless the glitter happens to be on top of the paint), but the transparent paints mix well with it and the transparency of the paint allows the glitter to shine through, although the sparkle is somewhat diminished.

The glitter hold on well during a wash (I didn’t machine dry it) and is fine after being ironed with a pressing cloth (ironing the fabric from the back would likely achieve the same effect). It seems to rub off a bit when you rub it hard, so it’d probably be better for things that got minimal abrasion and washing.

The sparkle of this isn’t overpowering, also, so it’d be reasonable to use moderately in landscape quilts (snow in moonlight, for instance, or water shimmering). Heat setting makes a definite difference to how well the glitter adheres, btw.

The expandable paint was also rather niffy. I’d read about it a bit in Quilting Arts (issue 24, winter 2006 – Linda Schmidt) and was therefore rather keen to add it to my repertoire of techniques and tools. Finding it on sale was an added bonus!

I tried it several different ways. Firstly, painted on parchment paper rather thickly, allowed to dry, ironed and then peeled off. This gives me the option of creating pieces that could be sewn or glued as layers in a work. The resulting pieces were rather brittle, however, so care needs to be used in peeling them off and handling them. They painted nicely, though:


The expandable paint was wonderfully easy to work with, although I think a squeeze bottle with a fine applicator tip would be excellent for very detailed work. As it expands in all directions after heating, you need to start with rather fine lines for such things as tree branches:


But I like the effect. It’s white and dries white, so tinting it before using is helpful. After it has dried and then been heated, you can rather easily paint right over it as I did with the tree above. A keeper as far as materials go!

Finally, I ‘ve been playing with the Sprinklettes (not a girl group from the fifties), purchased at Michaels.

Basically, it’s iridescent glitter that can be mixed with paint and used on fabric. You can also stick it on with fabric glue. I’ve only played with this a little, but I have found the following:

  • it needs to be mixed with its adhesive, not just sprinkled on top
  • if just sprinkled on top, much of it will wash or rub off
  • a fine coat of thinned fabric glue over top of it really helps to keep it on
  • it mixes well with fabric paints, especially transparent ones
  • it’s quite visually powerful and easily overdone
  • it is attracted to everything via static electricity
  • it gets everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Places that will astonish and thrill your husband kind of everywhere.

Here’s what colours come in the bottle:glitter_bottom.jpg

Now that I’ve got the sparklies out of my system (and underwear), I’m off to do some preliminary sketches for another series.

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Quilty friends are the kind of people who understand that it is possible to fall in love with a piece of fabric. Incredibly Good quilty friends actually give you the piece in question. The batik below was made by Shelley Bauer and I actually had to stop myself from buying it several times. It’s incredibly textured and yes, it is actually pinned to the ceiling. Hard to get a good shot, but the colours and patterns show fairly well here:

snowflakes 2

I’m not sure I can bring myself to do anything with it besides quilt it….. (maybe with irridescent and metallic threads, possibly couched with silver cording here and there….?) I love it just as it is and am fearful of overdoing it.

More than one person must have my number, though, as I received a whole passel of fibre-related things this year. John gave me an mp3 player (to listen to music and books on tape), new scissors, a new rotary cutter, pins (good ones) and safety pins. My sister-in-law Heather renewed my subscription for Quilting Arts magazine, hence earning my eternal gratitude and bumping herself way up the list of “people who will get my hand-made stuff”. Mom and Dad gave me a 2007 copy of my personal organisation system, without which I would forget absolutely everything including my postal code. Katherine, with incredible care and though, decided to forestall her mother’s approaching early-mid-life crisis by presenting me with a Mercedes. Pocket-sized, even. A girl can dream.

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Last night’s free-form low-water immersion foray was exhilarating and inspirational, not to mention relaxing. I’d had a rather long day and dyeing the bejeezus out of a pile of cotton was just the release I needed. This lot is on a Northcott silk cotton and was done without urea and with fairly concentrated dye mixtures. Very little water was used (2 cups hot water to roughly two teaspoons of dye, varying with colour) and the bleed time was about fifteen minutes. The set time with soda ash (here again, very little water was used) was an hour and all were washed in hot water with Synthropol afterwards. The fabric was prewashed, too. The Northcott is a beautiful fabric to dye with and handle. Each photo represents half of a strip, measuring at least 21″ x 60″. Some are 21″ x 90″.

Now to figure out what to do with it all…. Some of it will be for sale, some will be used for particular projects and other pieces are destined to be a part of the quilt Katherine asked for for Christmas. Which reminds me, I had better get started on that!

(clicking on any of the thumbnails will give you a larger view)

1a 1b 2a 2b

3a 3b 4a 4b

5a 5b 6a 6b

12b 10a 10b

11a 12a 9b 9a

7b 7a 8b 8a

a quickr pickr post

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fabrics 3

Dyeing fabric is an addiction. Painting it is bad enough, but requires more work and drying space and is therefore self-limiting, in some respects. But low-water immersion dyeing? Fast, easy, accomplishes large volumes in a batch and seeing the results is incredibly inspiring.

Two evenings’ work, spread out on the ironing board….

Now to chop it up, pick out the pieces that are specifically for my own work and sell the rest…. (prices are $18 CDN per metre, or $5 per Canadian fat quarter if you’re interested, plus shipping. – Canadian fqs are slightly bigger at approximately 20 x 21 because we sell by the metre which is 39″ instead of 36″).

fabrics 1

Might do some more tonight, probably greens and yellows!

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Whenever I tell people what I’m working on over the phone, there is an inevitable moment of pause, followed by, “you’re doing WHAT with dryer sheets? Dryer sheets?! Why on earth….” The conversation usually trails off with the implication that my mind must be a feeble and twisted thing, incapable of distinguishing a piece of garbage from appropriate material. I generally mutter something about needing to see it to understand and that pictures might be an asset to comprehension.

Okay, unbelievers. Get a load of this.

Dryer sheets, painted in an assortment of fall colours using Pebeo Setacolour transparent paints. To some I added pearl paint, to others I added Lumiere Metallic bronze or gold (boy was this a great idea!). The dryer sheets were allowed to dry on plastic sheets (my painting surface). When they were almost dry, I flipped them over to allow the other side to dry and to prevent them from utterly sticking to the sheets. After they were completely dried, I ripped them or cut them into bumpy lumps that were vaguely hedge-like in appearance. I went for a variety of shapes and sizes and worked quite deliberately at making them different.

Dryer sheets applied - close-up 3
Then I lit a candle and freaked the crap out of my husband by singeing the edges of the sheets. (Note: good ventilation is essential when doing this. Outside is best. Warn spouses before burning things late at night.)

After the edges were slightly melted, I held some of the larger sheets over the candle to melt holes in the middle. Then I got out the Lumiere paints again and touched up about half of the sheets. on some I painted the edges a little here and there, on others, I added veins that look rather like branches. The painted details are deliberately vague and rough, but add a nice touch, I think.

Dryer sheets applied - close-up 2

The next stage was to layer the pieces. This was the fun part……
Dryer sheets applied - close-up 1

Ta-da! Now all I have to do is stitch the stuff down. My intention is actually to go ahead and baste the quilt at this point, pinning the sheets in place for now. When I quilt the work, I’ll lift off the layers and attached them by quilting them in place, probably either by following the implied lines of branches or by using clear, mono-filament thread and sewing some amorphous wobbly lines; just enough to tack them own well.

See? I told you pictures would help.

Addendum: this technique would probably also make great autumn leaves….

a quickr pickr post

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