August 28, 2010

Screen-printing and batik workshops

I'm back home from a couple of days of mixed media workshops in Chicago. I did two workshops; the first was on Thermofax screen printing taught by Pokey Bolton, and the second was on soy wax batik with Melanie Testa. For the screen printing workshop, we were able to send an image in advance, so at the workshop we each had a personal screen to work with, as well as other screens that Pokey brought with her. I sent in an ink drawing:

In my favorite piece, I printed it in two different directions, overlapping.

Do double-click on these images for a much better view. The photo at the top of the entry is a detail of this wider piece. I like it. I may just mount it as is and put it on the wall. I like the process of printing quite a bit. One quilt I have in mind includes some repeated words/phrases. Printing might be a good way to get them onto fabric.

And here are a few of the many small pieces I did in the batik workshop. The first was one of several I did to see if I could get fabric usable for my quilts dealing with stones; the wax was applied with a paint brush. Yes, the resulting fabric works, though straightforward painting might do just as well, with less trouble.

The next one was done by first using paint to stamp black triangles onto the white fabric. Then I put wax down in larger triangles and painted all with black. (Thanks to Melanie, who gave me a mini-lesson on varying scale in pattern design as I was trying to figure out what to do after the small stamped triangles.)

This next one was an experiment to see what I could do with a pattern like the one I used in the screen-printed piece, created here with a tjanting tool that allows one to "draw" in wax. The blobby squiggle came from turning the tool upside down by mistake.
And a last one--this one was to try out red and black together, playing around with a potato masher (the parallel lines) and a ravioli cutter (the squares). Another quilt I have in mind involves red and black, and it could be that batik (or printing) would be one way to get to the image I want.

So, I had fun learning a couple of new techniques, with the guidance of two excellent teachers, and there's a chance one or both of these will be of use in future quilts. Before the summer comes to an official end, there's one more technique I want to try out--painting with thickened dyes (rather than the acrylic paint I've used before). More complicated, but different results.

August 14, 2010

The best iron ever

Quilters are always on the search for the best iron. For regular sewing on the ironing board, I use a Black & Decker Digital Advantage and am happy with it. But if I'm ironing more than a small length or two of fabric, I turn on my Ironrite mangle ironer. It is a joy to use--both because it irons yardage quickly and beautifully (I can't imagine ironing dyed yardage without it) and because each time I sit at the machine, I think about my mother. My mother would wheel the machine into the kitchen when it was time to iron. She used it not only for sheets and tablecloths, but also for my father's shirts. She was delighted, though, when cotton/polyester blends eliminated the need for her to iron, and when she and my dad moved to a condo, the ironer was stored in the basement. She would have given it away, but I said I was interested in it. I wasn't a quilter then, but I like linen table cloths, and my mother and her sister had both given me all of theirs, as they were happy with permapress replacements. Ironing a linen table cloth by hand is really tedious, though, so I didn't use the tablecloths very much. When my parents died in 2003 and we emptied their condo, the Ironrite came to me. By that time, I was also quilting, and I use it regularly. Nothing like it. I'm guessing this one was purchased in the 1940s (my parents married in 1942), and it is still working fine. They are no longer made, but can sometimes be found online. For a website with information:
And if you're interested to see how the ironer works, check out this great promotional video from the 40s: The video begins with the fancy stuff (helps me remember how my mother did my father's shirts), but for the demonstration of ironing flat yardage, fast forward to 6:30 for sheets (you wouldn't want to fold up the material first like this, but you'll see how the general process works). Don't miss the scene at 7:37 of what happens with the sheets. Then keep watching from 7:57 to see her do a tablecloth (no folds--this is how I do yardage).

Here's the machine closed up. My mother put some gray contact paper on top--she used that surface for folding laundry.

I like the company logo:

August 8, 2010

A week of work

Here are the results of a week of fabric dyeing, six separate sessions and about 40 half-yard pieces of fabric. I'm pleased with the results--both in the fabric created and in the figuring out of a personal routine for the process of dyeing. I've had enough success to feel confident about doing more, and I usually understand why one or another piece missed the mark.

My main focus was to create fabric for a quilt version of a pastel piece I did a couple of years ago at a mixed-media workshop at Arrowmont (each rectangle is a 9x12 piece of pastel paper, covered with layers of pastel):

(More on this workshop and other non-quilt work produced there in this post, on another blog I contribute to.) Here are the fabrics most likely to go into the quilted version, two different shots:

I think I'm going to try one version using the fabric just as it is, and then another version in which I add painted layers to the rectangles, to get more variation in hue/value across each piece.

Along the way, I also created the beginning of a stash of hand-dyes for further quilts in the "Pine Grove" palette, which is close to the landscape palette, but more far-reaching. So, happily, virtually everything that is rejected for the landscape project can be included in the pine grove pile. Almost all of these landscape and pine grove fabric pieces are flat-dyed solid (as explained in the previous post). I also did three pieces of grey mottled fabric in a value parfait (according to Ann Johnston's instructions in
Color by Accident), intended as fabric for stones:

And I tested out a couple of small pieces of linen (flat-dyed solid) to use as background for appliqued stones. (Double-click to enlarge, so you can see the texture here--quite nice!)

Now I plan to take a week off from dyeing. I'd like to cut rectangles for the landscape quilt, to see if I need other greens, and I'll also select further colors for the pine grove palette, adding in a variety of teals, some bronze-reds, and more gold.

August 4, 2010

Back to dyeing

High on the list for this summer has been to get back to dyeing fabrics. As August rolled in, I knew I needed to get going on this, to take advantage of the hot weather while it's here. I reviewed my notes from Carol Soderlund's great workshop that I took in April of 2009, wrote up step-by-step notes for myself, and began. I'm starting out with colors that I'd like for a midwestern landscape quilt (a fabric version of an earlier piece I did with pastel on paper) and also to build up a supply of fabric in the palette for further Pine Grove quilts. The results from the first two days are above. The three greens on the right are all the same dye formula, but with different methods for the dyeing. Not all the colors turned out to be exactly what I was aiming for, but comparing them to the one-inch samples I was working from (sample book from the workshop), I can see that this is because of "misreading" the color from the small sample. Two pieces of the green were done in a traditional low-immersion method, but the 3rd green piece and all the other colors I did with a flat-dyeing method from Robin Ferrier, which is easier for doing multiple pieces in different colors, and also easier on my hands (I'm trying to rest my right hand because of pain from too much hand-sewing). Both methods yield solids, with very slight variations that are pleasing rather than "defective." The pieces that were flat-dyed were consistently lighter in value than the sample swatches, so I'll just take that into account in the future.