The Good and the Bad, With A Side of Ugly

I said I’d show the fabric I dyed at my Sue Benner workshop, but let me warn you my results aren’t swoon worthy. Painting with dye can be tricky. The reds will gallop ahead and take over any space they can. The turquoises will be shy and often show up very late. Spray bottles will be temperamental and drop blobs where you want a haze. Thickening the dye helps, but it can be difficult for a neophyte to gauge how thin or thick a line a squeeze bottle will draw. My point is often you won’t know what you’ll get until you wash and dry the fabric.

I’ll begin with fabrics that began as black painted or monoprinted on fabric. A second pass added color.

In the above I splodged on black from a squeeze bottle and dragged a comb through it. After it sat for a few hours I put a vinyl bathmat under the fabric and rollered on several colors of dye.

In this one I applied the black to the tile board with a paint brush, dragged a notched tool through it, and then used a wipe away tool to remove the black. I laid my fabric on top of the board and rollered over the cloth to take a print. Once the cloth was dry I painted thickened yellow and turquoise dye onto a sheet of vinyl and pressed the vinyl paint side down onto my fabric.

For this one I painted thickened black on my board with a brush, made the curved Xes with the wipe out tool, pressed the cloth over it, and let it sit overnight without washing. The next day I used a stencil to add the green and yellow thin dyes.

Again, I used thickened black dye patterned with a kitchen scrubber and a comb on my tile board. I took the print, let it sit about 2 hours, and then added red and blue violet thin dyes. You can see how the red spread out.

Next, I took up brown thickened dye.

First I applied pale apricot thin dye using a stencil (a vinyl place mat). Next I placed a foam stamp under the fabric and rollered thickened brown dye over it. Then, a fellow student introduced me to felt tip type markers that you fill with your own ink or thin dye. I used that to make the boxes.

I combined a stencil, a sponge and a spatula to make the background. Then I used squeeze bottles to apply the red and turquoise. I had hoped the turquoise would spread out more but that wasn’t to be. I think if I had sprayed chemical water (don’t ask) over the fabric before the turquoise went on it would have spread.

For this one I painted two layers over splotchy turquoise and gold. The first layer of thickened turquoise was applied with a brush on vinyl, which was pressed onto the cloth. I used a squeeze bottle for the second layer of metallic gold paint.

Several other fabrics were less successful in that there’s still a lot of white showing. Like I said, I found it tricky to assess the amount of dye to use. The good news is that I can over dye them easily. If any of my fabrics come out well, I’ll show them off to you. Otherwise, they’ll get cut up and used in supporting roles.

Here’s some tool nerd information for those of you who might be interested. The Kemper wipe out tool is about the size of a pencil with silicone rubber shaping edges at both ends. It came with my class kit. The felt tip markers are designed for ink but work with thin dyes. https://www.imaginecrafts.com/learn-fantastix

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Around Here Week 24

Since I tend to hike looking more at my feet than the scenery, I notice tree roots that can trip me up, which is why I look at my feet. Talk about circular logic!

I thought this root was reminiscent of Chinese ink drawings. It might make a good thermofax screen, which could be printed in several different orientations.

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“With These Hands” Exhibit

On the way to my Sue Benner workshop my travel companion and I stopped at the Ross Art Museum in Delaware, Ohio, to take in the With These Hands art quilt exhibit. Actually, I made the stop a condition of doing the driving, as I have a piece in the exhibit. I hadn’t realized the quality of the company my quilt was keeping until I got there.

The exhibit was organized in conjunction with the Quilt Surface Design Symposium (QSDS), which is held each June in Columbus, Ohio. The works shown are a good cross section of art quilt approaches and techniques, though a bit light on the Nancy Crow style solids, which are plentiful at this year’s Quilt National exhibit. The Ross Museum exhibit is up until June 30, so if you’re driving I-71 through central Ohio or near Columbus, consider stopping by. I can find no online photos of the whole exhibit.

One approach I saw on several quilts was segmentation, either with separate strips or with panels sewn together after much of the work was done. Here are some examples.

Frauke Palmer made ten narrow panels connected only at the top.

Wen Redmond tied 21 panels together after creating variations of the same photo.

In “shell river” Lee Thomson created four panels separately, then hand sewed them together and added the button river.

Other quilts emphasized surface design.

Dominie Nash used crocheted pieces to print from in “Grandfather’s Garden.” Various shibori dyeing techniques are featured in Sharon Weltner’s “The Gateway to Night Time Vision.”

Some stood out for their color.

Trance by Kathleen Kastles grabs your eye from the entrance to the exhibit. Those blues and the narrow shape make it dramatic.Lots of little pieces of fabric make up the “rocks” in Beth Porter Johnson’s “Rhythms Within III.” Four Story Walk-up by Linda Strowbridge also uses small bit piecing.

Theresa Rearden used wonky half square triangles set in curves in “Off The Grid.” The detail of the ribbon overlay and the quilting shows below. There are also lots of french knots.Sandra Ciolino’s quilting in “Voluta #6 Solista” is exquisitely controlled.Finally, here’s my The Language of Pink Elephants, punching well above its weight.

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Around Here Week 23

Last week Around Here was in Columbus, Ohio, so the photo comes from there. Since I was preoccupied with color combinations in my dyeing class, I was taken with the blues of the sky, glass and shadows, the red of the sign and brick crosswalk, and the green of the leaves. Too bad I didn’t use that combination in my class.

A few decades ago I worked about a block from this intersection in a run down former hotel called the Seneca. My agency moved into swanker quarters and the former hotel has been refurbished into apartments for students.

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Intense Work for Intense Color

Last week I spent five days in Sue Benner’s Expressive Dye-painting and Printing with Procion MX Dyes class at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium (QSDS) in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a good thing the scenery of that thriving mid Ohio city wasn’t a distraction as my days in the studio began at 7:30 a.m. and often ended at 8 p.m., with breaks for meals.

Here’s what I saw on the way to the studio each morning. The studio, on the campus of the Columbus College of Art and Design, is a converted car dealership.

No, Sue didn’t set such hours for us, but I wanted to do as much as possible, and there’s a heap of washerwoman work involved in dyeing that eats up time. Once dyed, the fabric needs to batch (sit at least 12 hours at 70 plus degrees,) be rinsed (agitated in buckets of cold water until the water is mostly free of dye,) and then washed in hot water (we had a washing machine, thank goodness) and dried and ironed.

There are many approaches to dyeing fabric, all of them developed for different purposes. Dyeing solid color yardage needs a different technique than making patterns on cloth. The class I took stressed abstract painting and printing on silk and cotton with thin and thickened dyes. The dye concentrate tablecloth quickly became colorful.

We applied dyes directly to our fabrics with brushes, squeeze bottles, sprayers, and the like. We also monoprinted our fabrics using vinyl sheets and masonite boards known as tile boards.

Here’s my work table when it was tidied up. The big white square is the tile board.

And I haven’t yet mentioned rubbing, stenciling, stamping and the like. We all fell in love with textured vinyl bathtub mats for making rubbings. The pebbled pattern was especially popular. I used it under the fabric on the right below.

I did at least two layers of dyeing on each piece of my fabric. I learned I could let a piece batch an hour (as in the photo below) and then add more dye to it without the need to wash the fabric in between. This was a real time saver as I didn’t need to do a soda ash soak in between layers of dye. That’s right, you need to reapply soda ash between washings.

While we learned by doing, Sue worked on her class demo pieces and showed us how they came out.

Sue also did the brown/chartreuse piece you can see behind her. At the end of the class she cut that up and gave each of us a piece.

The last day we used paint on our fabrics and had some fun with various contests.

Sue even cut up and distributed the fabric underneath the dye concentrates.

I’ll show closeups of my output soon, but here’s a photo of some of it hanging up on my design wall. You can see my dye color documentation sheet on the table. Each of us was to create a color. Mine was pale apricot, which is on the right in the top row.

The work of many of my classmates was outstanding, as was the sharing that blossomed among the students. As often happens, I relied on the kindness of people who were far more experienced than I, as well as those who over packed.

I did participate in some activities not related to dyeing, such as the impromptu photo shoot of my lunch in the cafeteria. The figures are dear possessions of a QSDS staffer who staged them for her photos. BTW, I really like brussel sprouts.

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Around Here Week 22

Enough of nature’s spring glories. Let me get down to nuts and bolts. This utilitarian hardware holds together a pedestrian bridge over the Cuyahoga River. I love the different textures of the rusted metal and worn wood, and the shadows of the bolts. I like the color scheme as well.

The join is at the halfway point of the bridge, and this post is almost the halfway point of Around Here. How fitting.

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Graphic Inspiration

I find it helpful to look at inspiration books that range farther afield than quilting. My latest non quilting book read is Graphic: 500 Designs That Matter, published by Phaidon. It’s a small but thick book divided into the images themselves and a timeline of all the images with more information about each.

The earliest image is from 1377, though most designs are drawn from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The most recent image is dated 2011-12. You’ll want to fasten your seat belt for this ride. The book sets a land speed record for ground covered. Just plunge in as there’s no readily apparent organization scheme, other than the editors’ perception of similarities between facing images.

About a quarter of the designs do nothing for me; about half intrigue me; and the rest give me ideas for quilt designs. I want to feature a few that I can see using in a quilt.

The curved diagonal lines and arrows combined with transparent overlays give movement and depth, and would make a great modern quilt.

I love the paper doll quality of the men’s suits – just cut out an appropriately scaled fabric. Detail is used sparingly in the men’s faces and hands. Definitely a design for raw edge applique.

This magazine cover could work well for narrow strip piecing (no curves) in subtly different shades. I like the NYC contained within the staggered BIG.

While a bit hard on the eyes, this logo for the Olympics in Mexico is a great quilting design inspiration. The break the X and I provide is a welcome relief.

I think the different ways these letters are drawn would work up well in bias tape of varying widths. You’d have to make up the rest of the alphabet, but that could be fun.

While not so immediately applicable to quilting, this design appeals to me for its Escher-like changeover from male to female legs.

I couldn’t resist this ad that features RCA spelled out in Morse code. Shades of my “Connect the Dots” quilt, below.

I’m sure everyone who looks at this book will choose different favorites, but that’s part of its appeal, along with the reasonable price of $25.

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