Category Archives: Fabric Printing

Rags To Riches

One of my favorite surface design tools is thermofax screens. These screens are sort of like silk screens, but a lot easier to use. You need fabric paint or ink, fabric or paper, some kind of squeegee (an old credit card will do,) and a container of water large enough to hold your screen once you use it. If you clean the screen promptly it should last a while. If you don’t, it gets clogged and you can’t push ink through.

You can buy such screens online from several venders. You can also make them yourself IF you have a thermofax machine, an obsolete piece of technology used in schools a long time ago. The ones I used this month came from Susan Purney Mark. I like them because they are asemic writing, something I have struggled with doing. I printed on top of painted and dyed scraps (I think some were mop up cloths, aka rags) and old linen napkins. I also printed on tissue and paper, and found that works well.

Speedball fabric printing ink on a painted scrap and a painted napkin

More printing on painted scraps

Overlapping printing on a piece of dyed tablecloth

I branched out to use stencils for printing as well.

Stenciling on canvas scraps

And while the paint was out, I did gelli printing on Pellon 830 easy pattern with hand made stencils.

What happens to these experiments? Most wait patiently in the closet to be chosen for the right piece. Many are subjected to more surface design, which often improves them though some end up in the trash. One experiment with toilet paper roll printing has become a throw pillow after free motion quilting.

12″ by 18″ pillow that began with overdyed ticking

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Happy Accidents

Sometimes I decide to combine a collection of my painted/printed/altered fabric parts just to see if I can make them work together. Typically, I have no plan, not even a sketch. It’s a highly inefficient way to create, but I find it fun. Plus, it takes my mind off of any real world worries.

My latest mashup began with a naughty Roomba. I had unleashed it in my bedroom where it’s great for under the bed vacuuming. Unfortunately, I had stored a large sheet of lacy handmade paper between cardboard there, and the Roomba managed to mangle it thoroughly before I rescued it. Amazingly, the paper didn’t rip, but it was much softer. Figuring I couldn’t do any more damage, I colored it with Marabu fabric spray and decided I had to use it. It became a big part of “Happy Accidents.”

“Happy Accidents,” 29″ by 42″ (the color is off as we’ve had nothing but clouds since I finished) Except for the paper, which is hand stitched down, everything is either machine pieced or fused.

Among the bits I used were an old sheet that I used for painting (with thermofax printing,) monoprinted silk and linen, painted linen, painted PatternEase, bit of old curtain, muslin dress pattern, and ancient batik. There also Zen Chic and Grunge dot commercial fabrics.

Base layer with a few additions
One of many intermediate arrangements
Detail of fabric monoprinting, thermofax printing, PatternEase
Detail of batik I made in 1993, muslin dress pattern with thermofax printing
Detail of gel printed leaves on linen

I grant you the combination is a bit overwhelming even though I removed some of the circles in the editing process. But more is more, right? Now that’s out of my system and I can try to actually plan ahead for my next project.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Oh No, the “S” Word

Like many quilters who have been at it a while, I have plenty of fabric. Years of trips to quilt shops and gifts from former quilters have fleshed out my stash. And the internet has made it so easy to acquire more. I keep swearing I’ll use only what I already have or create myself.

Then comes the message about the sale – 50% off on fat quarters! And it’s from Spoonflower, which means I can create my own fabric without any mess. The offer was too tempting for me to pass up, so I edited a few photos, including collages I’ve made, and sent them in.

A mirrored collage that creates a pattern repeat
Another mirrored collage
The original collage
Fiddlehead collage

This is a large collage with many different thicknesses of paper, which caused the piece to buckle. I should have done it on a board or heavier paper. However, I now have a non- rippled version.

Wall and crab apple trees at Stan Hywet

I won’t use the above fabric as is, but will cut it up in some fashion.

Three versions of a sycamore leaf created in PhotoShop Elements

I plan to cut up the three fat quarters into blocks and make an almost traditional quilt with them. Knowing me, it will be a summer project.

Here’s hoping I ignore all future fabric sale come ons. It’s not so much the money, but how many more quilts can I make, honestly?

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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File, Act, Toss

One of the few staff development seminars I recall was F.A.T, or file, act, toss. The idea was to clear your overflowing desk by going through all the paperwork on it and decide whether to keep it (file,) respond to it (act,) or throw it out (toss.) I used the process with my pile of surface design experiments when said pile fell to the closet floor. The pile is now smaller and neater.

Once I threw out experiments that were beyond help – too overworked, just not appealing, etc. – I chose two to act on. The first is a painting experiment with an empty toilet paper roll cut to flare out. You dip the flared out end in paint and dab it onto fabric. I used it for free motion practice, and gingered up the color with oil pastels. It may become a pillow cover.

Next, I finished quilting an ancient sampler from about 2005. It was made from scraps left from an Amish type wall hanging, and I had hand quilted about half of it. Knowing I would never finish the hand quilting, I completed it with machine quilting and bound it.

With some actions under my belt, next I turned to the file pile. I tend to have groups of experiments in similar colors or themes as they were done in one session. Here are a few of those groups.

Finally, I decided to keep pieces of dropcloths that could make good backgrounds and a screened linen piece that I just don’t know what to do with.

Both are old cotton sheets that have a lovely hand.
This suffers from fold lines that took the spray paint differently.

I didn’t photograph my discards, though some of you may think I still have plenty to toss. I have lots more in my pile, but those bits are cut into squares in anticipation of a future project.

Are you a hoarder of such experiments or are you more ruthless than I am?

I am linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Blue Plate Special

Do you have old pressed glass pieces hanging around your abode? I inherited plates, bowls, small pitchers, and cups done up in pressed glass that were meant to pass for crystal or cut glass. Because it was machine molded it was much more affordable than crystal, which explains why my family, with modest means but a desire to emulate the more well to do, owned pressed glass. I use my inherited pieces on occasion, but didn’t think much about them until I discovered margarts.com.

Actually, I discovered her videos on Instagram which show her printing a wide variety of fruits, veggies, scissors, and pressed glass onto fabric with printing ink. The technique is like the old potato printing you may have done in school, but done more imaginatively. I was eager to try artichoke printing, but I had pressed glass, printing ink, and fabric on hand, so off I went.

First, here are a few of Margaret’s efforts with pressed glass. She makes up her prints into pouches and needle cases.

Then, here are my initial efforts. You can see I’m still working on the correct amount of ink.

It turns out I used that pressed glass pattern some years ago.

The center of “All Decked Out” is a bowl rubbing with a blue (do you see a theme?) paintstik

Since I had my table set up for printing I dusted off my Gelli plate and printed weed leaves and stencils on old napkins used as mop cloths and silk scraps. For these I used Jacquard textile paints.

My final experiments were on crinoline that I had stitched pleats into and painted. For some reason my textile paint was quite watery and so it didn’t stick evenly to the plate when I rolled it out.

I like the watery effect. I’m sure someone sells a stencil just like this.

Maybe I’ll cut up the plate prints into quarters and do a drunkards path type pattern. For now they sit on the top of my pile of experiments.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Slow Motion Finish

Finally it’s done, I thought as I sewed the hanging sleeve on “Shattered” yesterday. Unlike most of my work, this piece has been a multi-year effort. I wrote about its genesis from a photo of a broken mirror earlier (here and here.) To recap, I had Spoonflower print fabric from my photo in 2019, did the initial composition in 2020, solidified the design in early 2021, and quilted the piece in June and July of 2021.

Usually it wouldn’t take me four weeks to quilt a small (roughly 2 by 3 feet) piece, but problems with my neck have limited my sewing machine time. Like Nora Ephron “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” In my case though the bad feeling is from pain, not vanity.

“Shattered” 22 inches by 38.5 inches

The materials I used besides the printed photo include hand dyed cotton and damask, silver lame, and novelty yarn.

You’d think I would choose to go light on the quilting. Hah!

Back

I did walking foot and free motion quilting using six different threads, including metallic, which was a pain as usual. The edges are faced, but I tried sewing 1/8 inch grosgrain ribbon along the raw edges before adding the facings. It’s a technique for stabilizing edges I read about in a Jean Wells’ book. It seems to reduce waviness, but the true test will be on a larger quilt.

Detail
Detail

I’m relieved to have it done and be able to move on to a new project. At this point I can’t tell how I feel about it beyond relief since I’ve been so close to it for four weeks. I should reach a better assessment after I’ve ignored it for a few months.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Fabric Printing

Urban Grime

Ever since I took Tansy Hargan’s “From Sketchbook to Wall” course I have wanted to use painted fabric on a larger scale than 10 inches square, with a lot more glue, and maybe even forget about thread. In essence I wanted to move from a three layer quilt to fabric collage. Restrictions on the amount of time I can spend actually sewing spurred me to combine a photo printed on fabric with leftover hunks of cut up clothing already painted with acrylic. The painted hunks, ripped and rough with some curled edges, are stuck on a foundation with matte medium. The result is quite stiff and grungy.

My starting point was a fabric printed photo taken by Penny and a dye experiment leftover from a theatrical costume.

By the stage above I had covered the dye experiment with diluted india ink and started to audition my painted hunks. The sheer fabric is from an old curtain.

I sewed the dye experiment to the photo and backed it with iron-on nonwoven interfacing. Then I started to position the hunks, adding bits of painted heavy non-fusible interfacing from my experiments pile.

More pinning bought me to this stage.

Close to what I wanted, but not quite there.
I glopped a lot of matte medium under and over the pieces and added a few more flourishes. It’s now pin free.

I think I’ll add a bit of sewing to make sure the pieces stay in place, though how much I add will be a function of how difficult it is to sew over the stiff surface. I may also add bits of paint.

I want to thank Julie Fei-Fan Balzar and her blog for introducing me to Margo Hoff. That post has tons of photos of Hoff’s work, so I recommend you check there for a visual feast. Hoff painted canvas fabric with vivid solid colors and then cut it up to make multi layer collages on canvas. Color, curves, transparency – her work has everything I want to do.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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My Spoonflower Addiction

As digital fabric printing becomes more prevalent, fabric users have even more choices for printing their own without resorting to the vagaries of their home printers. The latest SAQA Journal has a good comparison by the Pixeladies of fabric printing services. In the future I may try some of the services reviewed, but for now I’m sticking with Spoonflower as I know their interface and have been satisfied with their work. And it doesn’t hurt that they’ve been running 20% off sales.

I’ve turned to photos printed on fabric as a way to continue creating now that intense piecing is literally painful for me. I aspire to create work like the one below, but I’ve a ways to go.

“Union Station” Jill Kerttula

Jill Kerttula uses fabric printed photographs as a starting point for her work. Her blog entry about “6 of Chaos”shows her process. You can see more of her work on her website.

From my latest fabric order I created “Corrugated,” which uses four fat quarters of Photoshop edited versions of a photo my friend Penny took. I’ve inset narrow strips of varying widths to spice up the palette.

“Corrugated” detail

I don’t know if I’ll add more embellishment or quilt it as is. Any opinions are welcome.

Inspiration for how to deal with another fabric from the same order has been slow in coming. This is another photo from Penny that I played with in Photoshop. I want to emphasize the gritty textures, and may add some of the fabric I painted for my Tansy Hargan class.

Just in case you wondered, I’ve never had any flower photos printed for me, though I’ve used photos of trees.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Mail Call

The pandemic has heightened my anticipation of mail. No more store browsing for me. I dash in, list in hand, and grab what I need. It reminds me of the name of a South Dakota convenience store I once passed, the Whoa ‘n Go.

The internet is all well and good for classes, resources, and keeping in touch, but I miss actually handling items. So, I look forward to brown paper packages wrapped up in string, or the modern equivalent of them. Recently I’ve received two packages that made their way to me in spite of USPS difficulties. (Three day delivery is a fantasy right now.)

First, my blogging friend Ann Scott raffled off four fabric artist postcards, and I was the lucky winner. Ann created the cards as part of the postcard class she teaches. You can follow her blog and her YouTube channel.

Second, Spoonflower ran a 50% off fat quarters sale and since I am unable to pass up a sale I had to have several of my Photoshop edited pictures printed. The price worked out to about $5 each. Most are on cotton, and I may cut them up or use them whole.

A barrel used as an outdoor fireplace
A peeling barn door in Pennsylvania
Weird microscopic thing, color totally changed
Dried reeds with several color filters
Winter sunrise through a screen

I had more printed which I’m not showing as I don’t want to give you any more reason to question whether my sanity has been affected by our current situation. Well, of course it has, but as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, who cares?

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Filed under Commentary, Fabric Printing

The Purpose of Aimless Puttering

This post was inspired by one written by Jane Davies, a collage and mixed media artist I admire. She wrote about an exchange with a reader concerning some simple collages made as practice.

“Q:  My main question was if you had a purpose in mind when you created these simplified works, if you save them, and how you view the  time spent creating them.  Are you working towards a goal or just doing them for relaxation?

A:  When I need a break from whatever larger work I’m doing, OR when I’ve been out of the studio for a while and am rusty, the best way to get ideas moving is to keep my hands and eyes DOING something in the studio. Not thinking, but doing. And that takes on many forms. This little exercise I just made up and did a LOT of them. The main point is to do SOMETHING with hands and eyes to generate ideas, see where it goes, keep in practice, jog something loose, get back to some basic ideas, etc. It is not for relaxation, though it might be relaxing.”

Susan Lenz addresses similar points in her article for a regional SAQA newsletter. She makes several helpful specific points about productivity. In response to comments about her seemingly prodigious work output she says, “Productivity is often the result of a habit that took years to adopt. Get yourself a time card. Track your hours. This isn’t about the quality of the work or the amount of money you have in it or might get out of it. It is about the time you spend trying. It is about the hours you actually work.”

[Sidebar: I should note that Lenz is fully supported by her husband who deals with many of the day to day practicalities so she doesn’t have to. Same deal with Susan Carlson. I’m alluding to the kind of support from spouses that women have traditionally supplied male artists. Yet women artists may feel guilty that their art is taking time away from their families and all the duties associated with day to day living. Now that I’m retired and am no longer responsible for a child I’ve given up any pretense of feeling guilty about dereliction of such duties. My husband does these things better than I do and I value his willingness to shop and cook. I still do the dusting as he has asthma.]

But to return to my original points, I think it’s just fine to create without a goal. In fact, it’s fun. Often what I make while messing around ends up in finished work. “All Decked Out” and “Sur La Table” were made with surface design experiments done for the heck of it.

“All Decked Out”
“Sur La Table”

If I depended on sales of art to support myself I might have a less cavalier attitude toward purposeful work, but the two artists I quote above support themselves through their work yet still feel the need to mess around.

Another way I mess around is to revise old, finished work. If I’m not happy with a piece and would never display it, why shouldn’t I try to make it better. Even if I make it worse, I’ll have learned something in the process. “All Fly Away” is an improv piece that I have been fussing with for a few years. I just couldn’t get it to work. Finally I looked at it as a black and white image and saw why – not enough value contrast and too light in the wrong places. So I darkened the flying triangles with a marker and toned down bright/light areas with paint. It still needs more value contrast, but I’m happy I could diagnose the problem.

“All Fly Away” original
“All Fly Away” revised
“All Fly Away” revised, in black and white

Here’s some recent puttering I’ve done for no reason except I came across scraps while de-cluttering, and took a play break.

“Canyon Out West” was an experiment with fusing raw edge scraps to a background, then FMQing the result. I wouldn’t use the ribbon like this again.
Purple block made from surface design experiments (monoprinting, stenciling, embroidery). I may do more design on it or use it in a pillow.

The overall point of my puttering is to keep doing; to practice, practice, practice. Often I have no end goal in mind. You can talk theory all you want, but trying and failing teach you a lot more. Maybe we should have a show of our interesting failures.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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