I don’t know if that’s the proper term for fabrics that aren’t made from naturally derived materials such as cotton and linen. I don’t like the term man made, with its inherent bias, but fabrics developed from polyester often are called that. Here I’m talking about tyvek, evolon, lutrador, and the like. Why am I talking about them? A recent SAQA seminar on such fabrics reminded me of my own efforts to use such stuff.
Part of the seminar was a video conversation with Shannon Conley, an artist who cheerfully tackles all sorts of three dimensional challenges with unusual materials, often made of polyester. She encourages art quilters to explore the materials available in upholstery shops, like the spun poly material used under upholstered furniture. Here’s a sample of her work with painted, melted, and shaped polyester fabric.
My efforts with such fabrics aren’t nearly as adventuresome. I have used evolon and Pellon polyester tracing cloth fabric in a few pieces, and have enjoyed their ability to take color from paints and markers and lack of raveling. I understand they’re great to use with cutting machines. Artists such as Betty Busby and Valerie Goodwin have done so.
My past experiments with pattern tracing cloth taught me that it can be colored with Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks, acrylic paint, and markers, though the colors are a bit dull. It also works for stenciling and gel printing. Advantages are its price (cheap,) and ease of use with fusibles. It is somewhat transparent so any layers under it will show a bit.
Evolon is a heavier poly fabric with a pleasing suede like finish. It is far more expensive than the tracing cloth, and is often sold in cut pieces rather than from a bolt. I experimented with several coloring methods on dry and damp evolon and found the colors to be brighter than on the tracing cloth. Any marks on dampened evolon spread a lot, as I found with my labels made with a micron pen.
I have also experimented with used color catcher sheets. In fact, the bottom part of “Wish I Was Here” is composed of two that I painted and sewed together.
While I have no hesitation about using poly materials in art quilts, I don’t know if I’d put them in a quilt meant to be laundered. In their favor, they don’t stretch out of shape or ravel. Still, I don’t know how well stitching would hold up with repeated washings. Also, I have learned to be careful about ironing them. They can’t take high heat.
If you’re interested in exploring such materials, check out the work of Kim Thittichai, who offers online workshops about melting fabrics with a heat gun or soldering iron. If you’re a SAQA member, I suggest the last section of the Materials online seminar about unconventional materials.
I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with such materials – the good, bad, and ugly.
I am linking to Off The Wall Fridays.
4 responses to “Unnatural Fabrics”
I watched an episode of Quilting Arts and tried melting Tyvek (PO priority mailer). It was a disaster. I think I got it too hot. I gave up quickly!!
Oh yes, tyvek doesn’t like direct contact with an iron, but prefers proximity. I haven’t used it much as I can’t figure out what to do with the deformed pieces.
I enjoyed this post, really like your stencil designs and the quilts of course. I learned about Kim Thittichai’s work years ago. I have used/quilted and painted on Lutradur , then used it for a gel print and made a painted fabric candle hurricane (I think there are videos on my YT channel). I’ve also burned it to make leaves. I’d like to explore much more on different materials… never enough hours in the day.
Thanks, Ann. I haven’t worked with Lutrador yet,but am happy to try new materials to learn their strengths and weaknesses.