If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Applique

Recently, I’ve been hobbled by plantar fasciitis, due to bellydance practice (working on my 3/4 shimmy). Ouch. Then, my sewing machine conked out last week. I was so depressed.

But I did listen to the call of needle and thread, and pulled out the old overhead projector:

I magnified a simple drawing on transparency plastic of a desert poppy: then I traced the image from the overhead projector with a sharpie onto some Pellon Tru-Grid to make a pattern; this “pattern” for an applique will have 4 parts (not including the stem):

So, this is hard to see below, but the master pattern is on the left, and in red on the right I made 4 individual pieces for the poppy:

Then I picked out the right fabric. My photos of poppies in my yard seem to all have darker colors on the background petals. Here, I have my first piece of fabric, water soluble marker, scissors:

I traced the pattern onto the fabric, carefully selecting the bias, because there are curves in all the pieces, and it’s easier to manipulate the appliques with curves when they’re cut on the bias…and then I cut it out, adding a 3/8 inch (give or take) seam allowance to the drawn line…

…and then I spritzed some water on my counter top, and gently dampened and folded and squeezed the seam allowance fabric under the drawn line. I also alternated some pinching with a hot iron. Notice that the bottom part is unfinished; that’s just extra fabric I left on so that the other 3 pieces will have something to attach to.

Here are all 4 finished pieces, all pressed:

And, once I put them all together with a few straight pins, they looked like this:

That’s close enough for me to the pattern I made. I basted the seams of each piece. I’ll baste it all together, and eventually this will be one of several poppy appliques on my new art quilt; I’ll topstitch them down to the quilt top. I’ll add some water soluble crayon shading to the applique, too, to create the illusion of depth. But the appliques will be machine sewn to the quilt top, when the time comes; it’s just sturdier, and, there’s only so much hand applique I can take!

Screen Printing With Water-Soluble Crayons: Hand Made Greeting Cards

I am so late in getting my thank-you cards sent to my peeps in Boston; they so kindly put me up, hosted great meals and drove me around Boston. I don’t like procrastinating: I’ve never liked the feeling of having something I have to get done looming over my head when I can avoid that feeling altogether by just….getting the job done.

But….procrastination happens. Even to me.

Of course, these days, no one really writes thank-you notes anymore; unless maybe for a wedding gift, so for me to have this as a looming task on my list of things-to-do says a lot about what a throwback I am. So, perhaps no one would really notice if they never got a note.

The thing is, I had such a nice visit back there; and I have such lovely relatives. So, I do want to acknowledge that. To make up for the delay, I made cards the other day, instead of just buying thank you cards. I used a technique from the fabulous Jane Dunnewold book Improvisational Screen Printing; see her website for info on ordering.  I believe the book is out of print; but, a DVD of the book is available. In part, I made cards because it’s been SO LONG since I’ve done any art projects due to the ginormous landscaping project with which I’ve been consumed.

The technique I used from Jane’s book involves drawing a design with watercolor (aka water-soluble or aquarelle crayons) on a silkscreen, and then using acrylic gel medium (readily available at big-box craft stores) to transfer the design onto paper;  transfering to fabric is also possible, but the acrylic gel medium is slightly stiff and will alter the hand of the fabric. The crayon drawing breaks down in the process; only a few transfers are possible.

In this photo, you can see a plain 12 x 18 silkscreen in the back; up front, I’ve used masking tape on the same sized silkscreen to mask-out the screen, leaving only greeting-card-sized mesh exposed. I got the pack of blank greeting cards at a big-box craft store, using a half-off coupon:

While watching the Joy Behar Show, I doodled with my water-color crayon collection on my silkscreen; I am a bit of  Joy Behar addict, you’d never catch me alive watching the View, but I do think she’s very funny and her night-time show is gossipy fun while I do household or crafty projects.

Now, mind you, these are just simple greeting cards. Nothing complex. Here are the final crayon drawings; and, on the mesh, the crayons seem faint: the design will transfer quite strongly, though. I’ve done this once before, and a hint to anyone who’s going to try this technique: do NOT layer the crayon, thinking perhaps a thicker layer of crayon will delay the inevitable design breakdown, and give you a few more transfers. It won’t work. The thicker layer will just act as a resist, and will print as a blank space. Don’t do it!

Since I was doodling on my dining room table, I was using poster-board to protect my precious formica. Hey. I eat off that surface. With a plate between me and the formica. But, you get the point.

I taped down “guides” on the poster board so I could line up my finished silkscreen on top of the blank greeting cards; this way, everything will line up nicely once I started screen-printing with the gel medium:

Here, I put down the silkscreen on top of the greeting cards; you can see the plastic jar of gel medium (I use Liquitex, with a gloss finish, which looks nice on paper).  I poured Liquitex on the masking tape on the top of the silkscreen and used my squeegee to pull the medium down and up once, then removed the prints, put down new blank cards, and did the same thing again until the design was exhausted (5 runs altogether, which made for 10 cards; and of the 10, I’ll use 6).

It takes some practice to figure out your style and figure out how many “runs” you can get of your image. Here is a shot of the strongest and weakest prints; I got a couple images right in the middle of the range shown below, but those prints aren’t in the photo:

I hope all my cousins in Boston will be happy with their cards. It will make up for what I know Emily Post would consider a very tardy response on my part.

I would LOVE to attend Jane Dunnewold’s  Art Cloth Mastery Program. Please check out her website. Her work is inspiring, to say the least. I bought her very first book, Complex Cloth, when it came out in the early 90s and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Clare Aylward on Youtube

There’s a video of me on Youtube called simply Clare Aylward.

It wasn’t my idea. Enough people have found this video while googling my name so a small explanation is in order.

My dad had an identical twin, Bill, who was very eccentric and just completely nuts (in a good way); he was also a provocateur and he loved verbal arguments; and he came to Arizona twice last year, once in April to visit for a week, and once in June, to die in hospice care in my parents’ home.

My mom took this photo of us in April, when I’d gone to my parents’ house after work to pick up Bill to take him to the airport and back to Boston; as you can see, one of the twins looks sick. We just didn’t know how sick at the time:

Bill self-published a small newspaper in Quincy, Massachusetts called Black’s Creek. He supplemented his printed paper with videos he posted on Youtube of Quincy-area news and art; he did this because he said the Quincy Public Access cable station wouldn’t let him on the air. Bill really tilted at windmills, though; and I think it’s likely that the public access station was just another windmill.

Bill refused to be edited–he considered it an affront to his art; so, while I allowed him to film me a few times, I didn’t let him use my name as a tag for his many Youtube videos, because I had no idea what he would post and I knew once he posted it, it would never come down, and god knows what would have my name on it.

For example, in this video he took of me during our May, 2008 trip to Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA, I was really irritated with him because he constantly used the camcorder to mediate our time together;  and, of course, he filmed me being annoyed! The whole day, he had the camera in my face. He posted Ipswich Idyll, and considered it a “masterpiece”. If I’d allowed him to use my name, well, my name would’ve been the title of video, no doubt, and any search of my name would turn up a video of me looking grumpy and frumpy at the beach.

I spoke with Bill on the phone last April before he came out to Arizona to visit. He said he wanted to “film” my art quilts for a Youtube. Maybe I guessed something was wrong, because  I told him he could film me at the Grasslands talking about my quilts, and he could use my name as a tag; I told him he could have complete access. He sounded very excited when I told him this. I knew I’d made him happy.

So that’s the explanation behind the Youtube video Clare Aylward.

Bill promised me that I could view the video before he posted it; but, of course, he never let me see it before it went up. He promised me that he’d take my suggestions and edit the piece; but when I saw it, and when I asked him to please do something about my red eyes, he told me he couldn’t fix it. When I suggested another title instead of just my name, he said the title was “perfect”. I think his exact words were, “It’s my greatest work, I can’t change it”. I pushed a bit; and then he said he’d take it down if I wanted. Well, I wasn’t going to ask him to do THAT. I realized he really loved the video and that, ergo, he really loved me, and that was how he could show it. So instead of complaining more about my red eyes, I thanked him for his hard work, and his piano music in the introduction.

Five weeks later Bill was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer; he died 8 weeks after that.  I’m glad that I didn’t make a fuss, and that I let him use my name as a tag. Which to him meant a title, and, ultimately, victory.

Reverse Applique: A Weekend Sampler

I think one big secret to any successful art quilt design is making samples. A sample is a helpful way to “audition” a technique on a micro-level before taking the plunge into the art quilt itself. So, this past Saturday I made a small sample using sheer fabrics and reverse applique. I learned both techniques from Libby Lehman, who is a very gifted artist and teacher, and I encourage anyone who reads this to look into her work.

Before starting my project I first had to make some scones, though: a weekend morning is all about carbs and coffee. There are lots of scone recipes online; this one is pretty good, though I substituted plain yogurt for vanilla yogurt and added a bit more sugar, and I used half spelt flour, and I baked the scones on parchment. But this recipe gives you the proportions. Here are the scones,  just egg-washed:

While I was winding my bobbins I let them over-bake, but they turned out really good:

Thus armed, I started my sample.

In my current project, I have a “design motif” of a flower-shape based on desert verbena. I want to repeat this design motif multiple times in my piece; this is generally a good design principle, at least for me. Using sheer fabric to add a thin, nearly transparent applique is one way; using reverse applique is another way: both of these techniques add very little heft to the quilt top itself.

In both reverse applique and sewing sheer fabrics onto a quilt top, you need a background fabric, which in this case is yellow hand-dyed cotton sateen and is about the size of a fat-eighth; on top of the yellow fabric is a layer of pink polyester tulle, which I’d painted to get that color, if you look at the bottom left corner you can see the 2 fabrics:

Flipped over, you can see I’ve attached some stabilizer scraps with spray-adhesive. The stabilizer is a cotton-pulp fiber that I got on a giant roll from a company in Minnesota; it works well with my machine– you have to experiment with your machine to figure out which stabilizer works best.

So, to get started, I now have the following fabric sandwich: background fabric, tulle on the top and stabilizer on the back:

Below on the left is a pattern for a large verbena flower; I drew the design on the stabilizer part of the fabric sandwich:

Then I sewed over the drawn line with straight-stitch (use a small stitch) along the drawn line. I then reinforced with another line of stitch to make sure it was nice and strong, this is what it looks like on the back….

…and the front…

I then pulled off all the stabilizer from the back, then gently snipped away all the unnecessary tulle on the front, and all that was left was this nice flower held in place with 2 rows of straight-stitch:

So. Now I want to actually start the reverse-applique; I have one layer, now on to the second layer. I draw an outline of the same shape, just smaller:

I then pick the fabric for this flower, a fuschia I dyed, and I used spray adhesive to attach the stabilizer to the wrong side of the fabric; the fuschia fabric is then placed under the yellow fabric, so that the new small flower shape is directly over the fuschia fabric underneath:

Because I use an older machine, I have to unscrew the presser foot in order to fit my embroidery hoop under the needle; then I reattached the presser foot.

The new fabric sandwich–yellow fabric on top, fushia fabric with stabilizer underneath– is then slid into the embroidery hoop, and again straight stitch is used (small stitch) to stitch over the drawn flower shape.

Once sewn, the new, smaller verbena looks like this:

I carefully used snips and cut away the top yellow fabric to reveal the fuschia underneath; at this point I realized I needed to use reverse applique again to make the small pink center for the flower, so I did that in a pinch, using the same techiques described above: now, I have 3 layers: tulle flower, reverse applique flower and reverse applique flower center. Cool!

The whole piece then goes back in the embroidery hoop and I used satin stitch over the raw edges of the flower. It looks OK; my foot pedal had a small short in it which just got worse as I sewed, to a point where I could only get the machine to sew if I used the ball of my foot: an ergonomic nightmare.  So it’s not the best satin stitch;  I didn’t bother trying to finish the center.

So, the general idea is to use the above technique on my big project; here’s an idea of where some of the shapes might be placed:

But my sewing machine is in the shop now, as of this morning: oh well. Looks like I’ll be working on fiddle tunes the next few days…

Flour Resist: For Surface Design, It’s Irresistable!

OK, I apologize for that bad pun.

After several days of either staring at the TV or holed up in my bedroom with only a chugging steam vaporizer and damp magazines for company, I pulled out the fabric and set off to make some cloud-themed fabric for my new art quilt.

Flour resist is a great, cheap way to get excellent results when it comes to designing fabric. I love it. I first read about it in the February/March 2008 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, and then again in more depth in a fantastic book by Jane Dunnewold, “Improvisational Screen Printing”, which I got myself for Christmas last year. I think I like this technique because it’s quick. Sometimes I get tired of the idea that art has to take forever!

I painted a mix of one part white flour, one part water onto cloud shapes I drew onto fabric:

If you don’t pin down the fabric at the time you apply the flour paste, the fabric scrunches up like this:

However, this didn’t bother me because I wanted an uneven, scrunchy surface, because that would make the dye pool in unpredictable ways when I applied it:

Technically, I think you’re “supposed” to apply paint or at least thickened dye…..because of course the more wet the pigment, the quicker the flour resist will break down. I think though that if you want an impressionistic design, or if you’re theme is organic–like plants, sea, sky–some unpredictable breakdown could be really attractive.

Here’s what it looked like the first time around; because, of course, I knew I’d have to over-dye it a few times to get the result I wanted:

So, I did the whole thing over again, applying paste and then squirting on dye with an eyedropper and letting it set in the warm sun for an hour….

After the second time around, this is what the clouds looked like:

The weather kind of took  a nose dive, and I wanted a bit more distinction in my cloud shapes, so for the third time I stapled the fabric down to keep it even, painted on the resist, and carefully sponged on dye, this time in my dining room with a lot of drop-cloth fabric on the floor and heater on to make sure it was nice and warm for the dye to set:

This is the finished piece; it’ll be the top bit of the quilt:

I’m piecing together all the screen-printed and dyed fabric today that will be the “quilt top”; and from that point on, the reverse-applique and applique will begin!

My New Art Quilt: progress takes forever!

During my workweek I managed to do a little bit here and there on my new project.  Here’s some fabric I dyed–yellows and oranges for poppies:

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Here’s what some of  it looked like once I put it in the washer and let it dry and pressed it all:

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I made some basic patterns of poppies and then made appliques from those patterns. The thing about desert poppies is that they don’t have a lot of really in-your-face pistil and stamen action going on; the shapes are quite simple. One applique is complete; the other is in-progress.

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I’m going to use sheer fabrics and make shapes from tulle and organza for my new quilt. I’m just not sure if I’ll make the appliques separately and stitch them on the pieced quilt top. There’s another way to do it (well, there’s probably multiple ways to do it)….here’s a sheer-applique under construction:

sheer poppy

Here’s the finished poppy, sans any stem or leaves. It looks OK for a sample. But that’s why it’s a sample….I’m pretty sure I can make it look better….next time!

sheer poppy 2

My New Art Quilt: Sonoran Desert Wildflowers

I started this art quilt project  late last spring. Right after I started, my uncle was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer; he lived for 2 months after that, and I spent my free time visiting him until he died. Only recently have I picked up where I left off. I have this idea of a big brightly colored art quilt with pink sand verbena and yellow and orange desert poppies and a bright blue sky with cirrus clouds. That’s the general plan and color scheme. Overall size will be something like 70″ x 40″.

Here’s some sand verbena from my wildflower perennial bed:

sand verbena resized

 

I cut verbena shapes out of contact paper, based on the photo; contact paper is the stuff you use for shelving in your cabinets.

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Here are my plywood boards w/poly fleece stapled on top; I took these outside and stapled my fabric on top….

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I peeled off the adhesive on my verbena-shapes and stuck them on the fabric stapled on the boards, then screen printed thickened dye on the fabric….then I washed the fabric and did it all over again a few times.

You can see some of the finished verbena-fabric here on my “design wall”–just fancy talk for a big fabric covered bulletin board where I can hang fabric up to “audition” for whatever project I’m working on:

screen printed fabric

Now the question is what to do with all the fabric! Time for some sewing experiments…..