Straightening Up the Art Quilt

The level is on the right, and you can barely see the plumb line on the lower left corner; these are the most important tools in straightening up a large piece of fabric art. There isn’t exactly a T-Square that will work. For the first time I used masking tape to create a straight line after I’d measured carefully, and that turned out to be a helpful cutting guide rather than just drawing a line on the fabric.

I made a temporary hanging sleeve last night and hung up the piece, unfinished, to see how straight it looks; I was surprised at how relatively good it looks. I wanted to get an idea of how straight it was before sewing on the binding…..and then hanging it up….and then taking off the binding to straighten it up…..what a nightmare that is!

Bear in mind this is an old house, where there really are no reliable 90-degree angles, and that there’s some distortion in the photo:

I wanted to use this very cool fabric I dyed for the binding….

…but I don’t have enough! I went to a local fabric store and bought a yard of dark fabric for the binding. Which I plan on sewing on today….so stay tuned! I can’t believe this is almost finished.

Delayed by the Art Quilt

Well, I’ve been clearly not posting anything new; but as you can see above, I’ve spent some time working on my art quilt, instead. I’m making progress.

My sister visited recently and suggested I use some pale colors and bright pink colors in large poppy appliques to help the design. I realized I had few fabrics dyed in this color. I tried to make new appliques work with my fabric on hand, but I couldn’t make it work and finally gave up, frustrated. I decided I’d have to spend some time dyeing new colors. Not that dyeing fabric is time consuming–it isn’t–but every hour counts right now because the deadline to submit a photo/application is this Wednesday for entry into January’s Tucson Quilt Show. So I’m spending all my free time getting it ready to photograph.

The first thing I did was tear my favorite quilting fabric–cotton sateen–into small pieces, most about the size of fat-eighths. I then got all the fabric wet in a bucket of water…

…and then wrung out the fabric and scrunched into damp shapes that would fit in the bottom of a quart plastic yogurt container, my preferred container for dyeing. The fabric was scrunched in one of 4 shapes which you can see below, from left to right the shapes are: the general scrunch shape, the spiral twist shape, the sloppy pleat shape and the wadded-up ball shape. They each produce a unique pattern of dye.

Outside on my patio this morning, here are all the containers ready to go…

I added liquid dye to each container; I mixed 5 colors and combined them differently for each one. I use Procion fiber-reactive dyes that are set with soda ash, and I get all my supplies at Dharma Trading Company.

Bearbear and Baxter were there to watch (quietly). Poor Baxter, he’s slapped daily by Bearbear’s tail, seen here wagging in a blur; his tail  is exactly at Baxter’s eye-level. Baxter doesn’t have a tail. 😦

After 90 minutes I topped each container off with about half  a cup of warm soda ash solution:

Then I squeezed out the dye I could, then swirled each piece around a bucket with Synthrapol, a detergent that separates dye molecules in the water so the dye doesn’t move from fabric to fabric. Even so, many people recommend rinsing fabrics separately when you remove them from the dye bath. I haven’t had any problems letting the fabric touch at this stage; the soda ash has fixed most of the dye, too.

Then I put all the fabric–lights and darks–into the washer together. I add a small amount of S and use hot water. Then I’m done!

The fabric looks fabulous. I’m pressing it when I done posting this!

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: 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.

DSCN1511

 

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

DSCN1509

 

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…..