Posted in colorwork, quilting

Inspiration, Gestation, Implementation

INSPIRATION: The idea for creating a fiber object based on the Gateway Arch has been rattling around in my brain for some time. It really started way back in 2012, after my husband and I visited the Gateway to the West museum in St. Louis. At that time, he took a series of photographs showing every possible angle of the Arch at ground level. They are rather remarkable, taken as a group. Here is an example.

Earlier this year, I asked for copies of these images and began to imagine how a series of different views would look on quilt blocks. I printed out nine pictures and pushed them around against each other. In the end, I shelved the project. I decided that I really lacked the necessary technical skills to realize my idea.

GESTATION: Over the summer I completed several on-line quilting lessons and actually made a quilt based on my own design. I now feel ready to tackle the Arch project. So yesterday I pulled the photos back out and arranged them into a nine-block design with a look that pleased me. It took me hours to get it right.

IMPLEMENTATION: Dear me. Thinking about the many steps required to move a quilting project from the idea stage through to completion is giving me pause. Let’s take stock of where I am so far:

  • I have a design and a layout, pictured above. Each image represents one block at 1/3 scale. I’ve decided that I will need a paper template for each arch image, in order to draw and cut it accurately from the background material. For this task, I have located a pad of giant post-it notes. From it I have cut nine pieces that are 14 and 1/2 inches square.
  • Block Content: Each block will consist of 16 squares with a finished size of 3 1/2 inches. The flowing arch will be cut free-hand into the sewn blocks and inserted.
  • Colors: There will be three background colors in hand painted fabrics, moving from left to right they are purple, blue-purple, and blue. The arch section which winds through each block will be made of golden-orange-pink fabric. Here are some samples that I made earlier this year.
  • Other design decisions yet to be made: sashing or no sashing, type and number of borders, backing. While I plan to quilt it myself, I haven’t decided on a pattern yet.

Next steps seem to be

  • Draw to scale the templates for each block
  • Determine yardage needed for quilt top and purchase fabric
  • Cut fabric into manageable strips
  • Hand dye strips according to design plan
  • Cut out the squares
  • Practice cutting free-style curves.

A wise woman said, the journey of a thousand stitches begins with one thread.

Posted in colorwork

Experiment with stamping

While shopping yesterday, I discovered some fabric ink pads seriously discounted.

This is something I have been wanting to try for some time. I have done a little bit of stamping/printing using fabric paints and homemade stamps. I’ve never been quite satisfied with the process and medium. The fabric paints start to dry and clump before I have finished my project. This results in a lot of wasted paint. So I am intrigued to try stamping with ink instead.

First I made a color swatch using some square stamps.

I like the red, blue, green and magenta the best. When stamping yellow over blue, I noticed that the inks blended – a desirable trait for my work.

The instructions say to let dry 24 hours and then press for 3-5 minutes to set the ink. This morning when I pressed the samples, I noticed that they weren’t quite dry. But by this afternoon they seemed okay. I quickly made up some triangle stamps out of foam pieces with the idea of stamping an angular rainbow on white fabric.

This was fun.

Next I tried the ink on a pale gray printed fabric. While my stamping technique was a little crude, I thought that the result was okay.

My verdict: I’m glad that I paid so little for these ink pads. It took a lot of color worked onto the stamp for each press, and the color intensity on the fabric was lacking. I’m also not thrilled that it takes so long to dry. Do any of my fiber arts friends have a product that you would recommend?

Posted in colorwork, painting

Another Hydrangea Leaf

…..With apologies to readers who might be tiring of images of leaves.

I’m experiencing momentum on the oakleaf hydrangea project. While I intend to create 12 leaf blocks, I promise that I won’t blog about every single one of them. But I think today’s block is worth a few words and images. Here is the reference photo.

After making my sketch on the fabric, I masked the veins with resist and applied a pale emerald green wash. In this photo the piece has dried, and the leaf is covered in resist before undergoing the second wash.

I went really dark.

After the paint dried overnight, I pressed the background in an effort to set the color, then washed out the resist. Before I started painting in the details, I sampled several colors of paint over the pale emerald on waste fabric, because I had no idea what color would give the effect I wanted. I ended up applying yellow-orange, let it dry, and then painted in the major and minor veins.

This image has strayed pretty far from the reference photo! It is no longer a summer leaf, but a slightly battered early fall leaf, getting ready to change color before dropping to the ground. I love the chalkboard look of the background. Because it is black, I was able to use an Ultra fine point Sharpie to draw the leaf margin.

Posted in colorwork, hand embroidery, quilting

Oakleaf Hydrangea – The First Leaf

Yesterday and today I resumed work on the oakleaf hydrangea fabric paintings. Above you see the reference photo for the first leaf I am painting. I chose to do two experiments. Here are the two paintings after the first round of painting. The color wash – resist steps were complete and the paintings left to dry. In these photos, the water resist medium has not been washed out yet.

And here are the two paintings, washed, dried and with final details added, using Jacquard Textile paint inTurquoise and Goldenrod, so palette was quite limited.

It was a learning experience, trying to paint on dry fabric with thicker paints. I discovered how to add depth to the background by dry brushing. And I learned that my skill in painting delicate lines needs work. After the pieces dried, I pressed them and continued on to the stitching phase. I chose to work with the purple piece first, hand quilting with embroidery floss. Instead of backing with regular batting, I used cotton flannel, since it would be easier to push the needle through.

I carefully stitched over the major leaf veins, and then made two borders around the leaf margin. After finishing the leaf, I just improvised the background, using two shades of purple and two stitches – feather and chain.

So far, undecided about how to stitch down the edges. The choices are blind stitch or use a decorative blanket stitch. Does anyone have a recommendation?

Posted in colorwork, painting

Consolidate. Gestate. Internalize.

For the past three days I have been irresolute about making new fiber objects. I haven’t been idle – not a chance of that! But I felt more internal about my efforts than external, that is, not ready to show or talk about them.

Consolidate: (verb) 1. to join together into one whole. 2. to make firm or secure.

Gestate: (verb) to conceive and gradually develop in the mind.

Internalize: (verb) to incorporate within the self as conscious or subconscious guiding principles through learning.

If you ever start to feel you are stuck creatively, I suggest you reframe your status with the verbs above. It could be that you are not stuck at all but are internalizing.

A week ago, I agreed to offer fiber arts lessons again to the local homeschool association. To keep from being overwhelmed, I suggested that I teach project or workshop-type lessons. So part of my time has been spent on writing syllabi for these workshops. The first topic is crochet. I propose to teach crochet in the round.

View of my worktable with two crocheted baskets in use.

I finished the syllabus for this workshop and made this sample.

It has been a while since I’ve created with yarn. It felt good to get back to it.

Secondly, I have been fooling around with pattern and paint on my color washed fabrics. Using foam, felt, cotton yarn and cardboard, I made these stamps.

Stamps sitting on color wash sample

I then proceeded to use them on this sample as well as a dark gray sample. My paint selection included Jacquard Textile paints, which are semi-transparent, Pebeo Setacolor opaque white, and some metallic acrylic paint I had laying around. Here are my doodles.

I’m loving the dark sample, especially the way the white opaque shapes and the glittery bronze shapes jump forward from the brooding background.

Posted in colorwork, sewing

The Wing of a Butterfly

It’s seems as if the butterflies are everywhere this month. I have enjoyed watching swallowtails moving through the back yard on light breezes. So today’s fiber object is inspired by a butterfly wing, specifically, a Monarch butterfly. It is also a chance for me to try out a new tool I recently acquired.

This set is produced by Honeysew. The large tape maker is by Clover. I purchased both through Amazon. They can make yards and yards of bias tape from any woven fabric, with the use of a hot iron. For this project I chose 1/2 inch tape maker.

The first step is to cut 1 inch strips of fabric on the bias, and seam them together with a very narrow seam allowance. After trimming the seam allowances, the fabric is fed through the wide end of the maker and pressed as it appears out of the narrow end.

It took a little practice, but I quickly got the hang of it.

Now that I have my tape, I will need fabric………..

Including two of my painted fabrics.

And a plan. Here is a quick sketch of an abstract wing.

I made a photocopy of the sketch, cut out the major areas into pieces, and pinned and cut the fabric. Next I stuck the shapes onto my background fabric with a glue stick.

Starting at the top, I sewed the bias tape around the outside edge. When sewing down bias tape, it is important to sew the inside (convex) edge of your design first, being careful not to stretch the tape. Next, press the fabric and tape, smoothing out the outside (concave) edge. Then, stretching it as needed, stitch down the outside. I continued sewing the bias tape until all raw edges were covered. I also sewed a few bits of tape onto other major design lines. Here is the piece at the end of this step.

To emulate the lower edge of the Monarch wing, I cut a piece of dark gray fabric, drew the white spots across it, and then trimmed holes where each spot was. To make the spots white, I inserted a piece of white fabric behind the gray, gluing it in place with glue stick and fusible webbing. Here is the back side of this piece.

This was then stitched across the bottom edge of the piece and top stitched with a decorative stitch.

Finally, I used zig-zag stitch to add the small veins found throughout the wing.

Now that it’s done, I’m not quite sure how to use this particular piece. But I’m confident that the bias tape maker will come in handy for many a future appliqued design. How about stitching up a stained glass window?

Posted in colorwork, painting

DIY Fabric Color – Pattern

Today I will be enhancing the fabrics I color washed yesterday with more color. I’m excited to try water-based resist, a product new to me. I will be using it on the pale pink strip of fabric, also pictured, above.

The product came with a little applicator. I quickly discovered that it was impossible to get the gloppy resist paste into the tiny opening on the applicator. So I moved on to using a narrow paintbrush. But first, I wanted to try some crayons, just to see if the crayon marks would resist the paint. Here is my swatch all crayoned and resisted, before I flowed in the paint.

I mixed yellow, orange and ecru Dye-Na-Flow paint to get a bright gold color.

Tomorrow we will see whether the resist worked. Next I moved on to the striped piece of fabric. I wanted to print it with the following item:

Any one who is related to a son or a grandson will recognize a foam nerf bullet. I will be printing with the back end of the bullet, which makes a very nice circle. Here is the fabric before and after printing with orange Jacquard Textile paint.

Before. (In this image the paint is still wet.)
After

I would say that this fabric is unique.

Addendum to this post: I thought you might be interested in seeing these fabric swatches after they were washed, dried and pressed.

I’m pleased with these swatches, but especially so the water resist piece. Even though the lines did not resist all the way through the fabric, the front of the piece shows the pink lines clearly. The only negative is that the resist hasn’t completely washed out of the fabric. I will probably need to give the fabric an additional soak.

Posted in colorwork, painting

Colorwashed Landscape

Fireweed

We are busy day today, getting ready for hosting company. So instead of working up a new fiber object, I thought I would share this colorwashed piece of fabric which I made a few months ago. How it came to be is somewhat interesting, at least to me.

I started with a square of white cotton poplin. Using slightly wavy strokes and starting at the top, I applied blue, purple, red and green. Before the fabric dried, I used the “scrunch” technique – crumpling the fabric in various places. This causes the paint to run and dry unevenly, resulting in the dark creases you see above. Immediately, I thought it looked like a view of the Rocky Mountains. Dark brown and black appeared in the creases where the red paint met the purple and green. This reminded me of the mountains in recovery from a forest fire. To enhance the effect, I printed on the fabric in brown and green with blocks cut in jagged shapes, to represent the tree trunks, both living and dead. I painted snow on the mountains. Then I used fabric markers to delineate the sky and a field of pink blooming fireweed.

This landscape feels to me as if it appeared by magic.

Posted in colorwork, drawing, hand embroidery, sewing

Inspired by O’Keefe

My fiber efforts have been rather uninspired over the last two days, so no new posts. Then I picked up this book written by Georgia O’Keefe. It is an autobiography told in her own words and in beautifully reproduced images of her paintings. It got my creative thoughts moving again.

While she spent most of her life living in and painting the American Southwest, in the early stages of her career O’Keefe was best known for her large-scale paintings of flowers. Here is what she has to say about these works:

Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint is big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.

Exhibition catalog, An American Place, 1939

So I decided to create a fiber flower, because I want to look closely at a flower. I chose to make a Moonflower, partly because of its star-like shape, and partly because I don’t see them growing around here. When I lived in Texas, I grew some moonflowers. It was way too hot to enjoy the garden during the day. Instead I sat outside at dusk, when I could watch the moonflowers swirl open.

Here is a pencil sketch I made of my moonflower:

I plan to use white poplin for the flower, with fabric paint on the shaded areas and embroidery on the bright areas. Here are some green fabrics I have chosen for the background and the flower shape I will cut from the white poplin.

The next steps are to piece together and sew the background.

Background with paper template showing flower placement

Tomorrow I paint.

Posted in colorwork, quilting

Lemons to Lemonade: Tales for fiber artists

Once upon a time, there was a sad fiber artist. Alas! She had spoiled her hand-painted fabric by her own foolish actions. But she didn’t give up hope. Soon her mistakes were transformed into a pretty little quilt block through the magic of cutting them into small pieces and sewing them log-cabin style to some batting.

Today’s lesson is to keep everything. You never know. You could use all the ugly ducklings to make a beautiful swan.