Category Archives: Techniques

From A Distance

Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” minus people

My husband and I are well stuck into our current isolation, and we’re glad our house is large enough to allow us to have our own spaces. Otherwise, we’d be tripping over each other. Of course one of my main spaces is my studio, where I spend at least a few hours each day.

If you think I’ve been sewing up a storm you’re wrong. I’ve been paper and fabric collaging, and finishing up two black and white pieces. Why collage? One of my studio clean up projects was to sort through pages ripped from magazines. That led to watching a few videos and then collaging on the blank sides of sketchbook pages. I also created more colored tissue paper to use up some almost empty bottles of Dylusions ink sprays. Some of the papers are lovely; others are a bit muddy.

Lessons learned:

Magazine pages really like to wrinkle when glued, despite smoothing with fingers and old credit card

I need to learn how to use acrylic paint better

Lay down a colored background before you start collaging as it’s hard to add after the fact

Already fused fabric is easy to collage and can be pried off with heat and moved around (something impossible with glue)

Here are my efforts to date.

My first effort using tissue paper, magazines and paint.
Second try with already fused fabric scraps and colored pencil.
Third try with all magazine paper-very wrinkled. Lower right needs design work.

I hope to improve my collage skills over the next few weeks, once I figure out the right glue(s) to use. Collages are good design exercises.

The black and white pieces I made with my mark making class output are also experiments. One is more successful than the other, but I learned from both.

Fire or Ice
Still Standing

Finally, I did make a few masks to have on hand for personal use. I’ve wavered about the whole homemade mask enterprise as I’m concerned many won’t be useable. Sewers respond generously to such requests, but there’s a lot of room for good intentions to go astray. Elastic doesn’t hold up well to commercial laundering. The proliferation of patterns is confusing to me. Some have a pocket for a filter. My local hospital prefers the masks be lined with flannel. Other hospitals want nose shaping wires sewn in.

I’ll see if requirements and need for masks change before I make more. As I usually do, I’m linking up with Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas, Techniques

In Black and White

Lately I’ve been working through an online course from Susan Purney Mark that uses just black and white paint and ink. It’s called Squiggle, Line and Dot; and focuses on mark making with markers and paint. Mark marking seems an artistic term for abstract streaks and blobs on paper or fabric.

So far my success rate has been 50/50. I like some of the techniques enough to tuck them in my toolbox. Others I had high hopes for have just fallen flat for me.

Let’s start with the successes. Both are easy and involve an iron.

Fabric scrunched and ironed.
Fabric flattened out after rollering with black paint, second go-round.
Fabric scribbled on with Inktense blocks, then brushed with water.
Torn freezer paper strips ironed on fabric, then brushed with white paint.

Both of the above techniques achieve fast results and can be used with multiple colors of paint.

Here’s another piece with freezer paper strips over writing with a marker, followed by printing with wrapped string.

Now for the flops. I was excited to try straight and curving lines with paint and a tool like a credit card. Unfortunately, my efforts achieved lots of blobs and few sustained lines. I had to draw in the curved lines with Penn artist markers.

I’m sure you recognize the tool I used on the lower right.

I tried different thicknesses of paint, but never managed to get effects like those shown in Susan’s video. Instead, I used my palette to print with the leftover white paint after I ran some printing tools across it.

Another failure for me was asemic writing. Susan’s looked elegant; mine looked like failed cursive writing. The only example of my attempts I’m willing to share is the last freezer paper strip piece above.

I did learn a good tip for dealing with palette cleanup. Cover your palette (mine is a pane of glass with taped edges) with Press ‘n Seal. Then, pull it off and throw it away when you’re done.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this class. I’ve learned new techniques and have the foundation for a new fabric bowl. I discovered white markers, which I could cheerfully overuse.

Freezer paper on canvas with black paint rollered over

But, I bought lots of paper and ink as they were on the supply list. The class videos didn’t use paper. Of course the exercises can be done on paper, but I think the paper supplies were optional. More importantly, I found I missed the ability to ask questions. Apparently there is a Facebook page, but I don’t do Facebook.

In all, I’m glad I took the class and plan to use what I learned, but it just wasn’t as good as it could have been.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

The Inspiration of Limitations

Too often I trip myself up with a lack of focus in my work. I start with an idea that cascades into yet other ideas and, in the end, I realize none of them well because I try to do them all. I find I do better by putting metaphorical blinders on – to work only with certain colors, shapes, or techniques. In her 1965 book “On Weaving” Anni Albers said, “Great freedom can be a hindrance because of the bewildering choices it leaves to us, while limitations, when approached open-mindedly, can spur the imagination to make the best use of them and possibly even to overcome them.”

I have two long term projects on the go that have built in size and material limitations. Both are sets of squares, needle felted ones and appliqued roundish shapes that I call pebbles.

The former came about because I had wool roving left from a wet felting class and was given felted wool fabric scraps. I bought a Clover needle felting tool, read a book, watched a video and went to work. The work is limited to the colors I have on hand, hand embroidery, and 5 inch wool squares. At some point I may sew the squares together. So far I have 16 squares made and only a small amount of roving left. I’m undecided about buying more. Right now I’m concentrating on embroidering them all.

14 of my needle felted squares

The pebbles are a variation like this one on the classic Dale Fleming 6 minute circle, with my monoprinting experiments used as the pebbles and backgrounds of hand dyed mottled fabrics in green, blue-green, and turquoise. When I make just one inset circular shape I often use a single layer of freezer paper as my template. If I’m making several shapes, as with my pebbles, I iron two layers of freezer paper together to make a longer lasting template.

For my pebbles I used pieces of my monoprints smaller than the template so I could get more pebbles – 30 in all. It worked fine as I made sure the stitching lines wouldn’t go beyond the edges of my fabric pieces.

Here’s the pebbles I created with four different templates. I’m now out of monoprinted fabrics.

detail of my pebbles

I debated whether to go with a simple layout or try to concoct something more elaborate. I decided to surround each square with uneven thin lines, somewhat like a tile floor.

It’s brighter when the sun shines.

Next up is figuring out a surround. I’m working on an uneven border. After that is settled I need to decide whether to pursue a wild hair idea to turn my pebbles into talismans by crossing them with threads to make them look wrapped. I wouldn’t add beads and feathers, though.

I have saved all the innards I cut out of the framing fabrics and fused WonderUnder to them. Maybe I could figure a way to add them, or maybe not. At this point I should reread the first paragraph of this post.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Commentary, Fabric Printing, In Process, Techniques

Results May Vary

I had planned to type Results May Will Vary, but the latest version of WordPress editing tools don’t seem to make that possible. I wanted that caution because of my recent experiences with gel plate printing. Now I find I can’t even do a new paragraph.

<Let’s see what happens with this button. It seems to return me to Classic Mode.>

Anyway, although I’ve owned gel plates for a while, it took a nudge from a friend to get me started with them. She was interested in printing on sheer and semi-sheer fabrics, so we ironed rectangles of said fabric to freezer paper and began to print with fabric paints. After trials with shapes of cutout sponges, stencils, stamps, and patterned rolling pins we found the video instructor got better results than we did. (Here’s the video we used.)

My guess is the consistency of the paint wasn’t right, as the video’s results were much sharper. Also, the detail of some stencils didn’t show at all. We found pressing on the wet paint sometimes caused the image to smear, as in my results below. Some of my other efforts were sort of successful, but printed sheers don’t show up well.

Patterned rolling pin on silk organza
My best result was on silk broadcloth with clear images from empty spools. The fainter images were made with the end of a pool noodle.

My second experiment with gel plates involved shapes cut from a paper towel. Per the video, I coated my plate with matte medium, cut out shapes from a towel, laid them over the medium, and then sprayed fabric paint over the lot. I had more success with this approach, though I often sprayed too much paint which blurred my oval blobs. Of course I deviated from the video a bit – I didn’t use paper or alcohol inks and I applied matte medium only once. Some of my results follow.

Fabric on the left was printed with a ticking pattern.
Image is from a stencil.
I overprinted this image.
Cloth on bottom combines paper towel shapes and stencil.

I think for my next gel plate adventure I’ll try screen printing ink for fabric to see if I get more consistent results. In the video the results look great. Yes, there’s one born every minute.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques


That title comes from a novel about a wealthy New York money guy whose wife gives a decorator carte blanche to do up their apartment. Apparently the wife’s style is midcench, according to the pricey decorator. It’s a style often associated with the work of Rex Ray, who features prominently in my recent quilting activities. While Rex Ray was influenced by mid-century modern style, he wasn’t born until 1956. I gather he was happy to gather inspiration wherever he could find it, and he produced both fine art and commercial work .

My interest in a puzzle designed by Rex Ray merged with an art quilt group Rex Ray challenge. I had already made my interpretation of the puzzle when the challenge was issued. I could have coasted with that, but I decided to take on another Rex Ray inspired piece.

First, the original puzzle, which features mixed elongated and wide teardrop shapes.

Next, my interpretation, “Not All Black and White,” which features lots of black and white fabrics separated with bias tape applique. I learned the bias tape technique from an online class with Latifah Saafir. Because of the face in the center I decided on a horizontal orientation for now.

When I decided to make another piece for my art group challenge I wanted something different. And what could be more different than an all stitch piece. I looked at many examples of Ray’s work, and decided to pull elements from these.

I used the polyp-like forms on the left and the wood grain on the right to design my big stitch embroidered piece I call “Ready To Split.” It’s done on old curtain material, which may be all cotton or a blend. First, I fused the material to fleece so the stitches wouldn’t cause puckers. After stitching I stapled it to an already stretched 14 inch canvas.

All four of the embroidery techniques I know are on display – running stitch, seed stitch, chain stitch, and back stitch. I can also manage a fly stitch, but that’s about my limit.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Completed Projects, Modern Quilting, Techniques

Here Comes The Sun

I found summer was slipping by all too quickly without my promised fabric design activities, so I used a lovely day for sun fabric printing with stencils and PVC tubes. The latter I used for arashi shibori, though with paint, not dye.

Frankly, I find it easier to color fabric with paint than with dye. No soda ash baths, no endless rinsing. Of course the resulting colors aren’t as intense, and the color sits on top of the fabric rather than permeating it. I think your chosen method depends on how you hope to use the fabric.

My equipment was basic – Setacolor transparent paints, foam brushes, three or four stencils, a sprayer, paint containers, cotton fabric, foam core boards, 24 inch long PVC pipes, rubber bands, and painters tape. I mixed three colors of paint – a yellow/orange, a red/orange, and a blue/green.

I did the shibori by wrapping folded fabric around the pipe and securing it with rubber bands. Next I pushed the fabric together to form folds and slopped paint on it. Then I sprayed each wrapped pipe with water to encourage the paint to migrate to inner fabric layers.

You can see the outside fabric is darker and the fabric folds are conduits for paint.

The inner parts have some interesting veining.

My stencils were a mix of bought and created designs. The most successful stencil was a plastic place mat I cut the edges from. Both the leaf and numbers prints were done on patterned fabric.

I finished my day with a second printing on my less successful efforts and produced the following:

I mixed my blue/green and red/orange paints to create purple, which I painted over the fabric on the left. For the fabric on the right I mixed yellow/orange and red/orange paints for an orange/red, which created a more subtle effect.

Update: In response to commenters’ questions, here’s a photo of the place mat I used. The edges were cut off. I think I bought it at Target.


Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

No Sew Quilts

After I was shown a segment of The Quilt Show where Lisa Walton demoed fusible quilt blocks made from scraps, I revisited my bags of fused leftover scraps and went to work.

Luckily, I have several teflon sheets so I could give my iron a fighting chance to stay glue free as I chopped and layered my scraps. The foundation to Lisa’s method is to overlap your base layers by 1/4 inch and fuse them. Then, you fuse strips of fabric on another fabric and cross cut them into colorful strips which you add to the base layers. Finally, you fuse your assembly onto a batting, flannel in my case. The sewing doesn’t start until the quilting does.

I produced two small quilts, which I enlarged by mounting them on quilted bases a la Jean Wells.

Fault Lines 10.5 ” x 21″

The curves I used came from the shapes of my scraps, and the thin long strip on the right was cut off of the main piece as part of straightening the edges. I zigzagged cording around the quilt edges and used an envelope finish on the base, which is Grunge fabric.

Plane Geometry 16″ x 12″

I used similar techniques in “Plane Geometry” including use of scraps as they were. The background fabric here is by Marcia Derse.

These were pleasurable palette refreshers that came together quickly and gave me a chance to use free motion quilting, which I haven’t been doing lately.

I’ve linked to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques