Category Archives: Techniques

Wet and Wooly

Somehow I escaped wool felting, both wet and needle, in the years I’ve been intimate with fabric. I have done it accidentally by washing wool sweaters, but never deliberately. Recently I remedied that gap in a wool felting flower workshop I attended.

We used wool roving, but I gather other forms of wool and silk will work. After we admired the luscious colors of the roving, we got to work gently tearing off bits of the hanks and laying them down on a bubble wrap mat (this is called shingling).

Our class kit.

After we covered the desired size and shape for our flower with wool, we put mesh over it, gave it a good drench with warm, soapy water, and began rubbing circles on the mesh to get the wool fibers to interlock. Once the fibers get cozy with each other (and that seems to take a while) the fun begins – molding your flower. There’s other steps involving water, twisting your flower to shape it, and throwing it down to full it.

My first effort looks like a tiger lily after a big storm – a bit frayed at the edges.
My second flower added another layer, plus a stem.

My fellow students produced gorgeous flowers.

Our teacher, Amanda Baker of Lovingly Felted Naturally, gave us some websites for further exploration and purchases. The most useful seem to be www.sarafinafiberart.com and www.livingfelt.com.

I still have enough roving for a few more flowers, so maybe my summer outdoor projects will include wet felting.

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Filed under Project Ideas, Techniques

Another Use For Silk

A member of my art quilt group clued me in to yet another way to use silk fabrics, especially men’s ties. She found a tutorial by Linda Heines, who uses neck ties to dye silk scarves. The key is to use all silk.

I had to try this technique as I had old ties and various silk scraps. Linda arranges her materials carefully to create attractive scarves. Since I wasn’t making scarves I got a bit experimental with my combinations.

The technique is easy. You layer your ties/scraps on a piece of silk, such as a scarf, and wrap it all around a dowel to make a tube. After securing the tube with string, rubber bands, etc., you remove the dowel and boil the tube in a big pot (not used for food) for 25 to 30 minutes. Linda adds vinegar to the water, but I tried boiling with and without it, and didn’t see any difference. Maybe it helps the silk retain the color.

After your bundle cools, unwrap it and see what you got. Here’s what I got.

For me the big advantage of this technique is I already have all the needed materials. Also, there’s no dye to rinse out. I rinsed all the fabrics once they were boiled and had little bleeding. The big disadvantage is it’s hard to control your results. If you’re willing to live with whatever you get, then you may enjoy trying it.

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Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

If The Shoe Fits

For a few months in 2018 I photographed shoes on people’s feet at rest and in motion. Why shoes? One of my volunteer jobs requires me to spend time in a theater lobby, and sometimes I have nothing immediate to do. I began to observe the groups in the lobby and became interested in what they did with their feet. I used my phone to take photos and a series was born.

Theater lobby

I also took photos of people waiting in lines at an art exhibit and generally hanging around. Since I had so many shoe photos I stopped, and concentrated on digitally reworking some of the photos, using what skills I remembered from my PhotoShop Elements class.

After a deep dive into PhotoShop’s effects and filters and a frustrating time sizing the edited photos for printing, I had a bunch printed off by Spoonflower in an eight by eight inch format. I used a bulk test print format Spoonflower offers. The results were a bit mixed. I should have standardized my photos more. But I had enough to combine into a quilt.

Pointilized sneakers before resizing

The next step was to devise a layout with the 8 inch squares. I sure wasn’t going to cut them up. After several days and reworkings I settled on one. Then, in a moment of genius or severe derangement, I decided to do the squares as three separate panels held together with laced up grommet tape.

Through Etsy I found Lace and Trims, which provided a reasonably priced product and speedy shipping. While I waited I quilted my panels in a simple diagonal pattern. Then, I sewed strips of the grommet tape to the panel sides and bottoms. It was tricky to avoid the grommets, yet sew on the tape. Looking back, I should have paid more attention to the width of the tape and the spacing of the grommets.

After the tape was on, I sewed a hanging sleeve across the tops of the panels (the only point at which the panels are sewn to each other) and turned under that edge. I will hand sew the sleeve’s bottom edge, along with bits I couldn’t machine sew because of the grommets. One broken sewing machine needle was enough.

Now I’m lacing up the grommet tape with various cordings and need to decide whether to try a single color or a mix. Right now I lean toward red cord for the contrast.

Black cord on left, silver in middle, red on right

I never realized there are so many ways to lace shoes. Check out some of the possibilities here.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under In Process, Techniques

Getting From Concrete To Abstract

Many art quilters seem to struggle with creation of abstract work, whether from scratch or from a recognizable photo or drawing.  Even if you don’t want a totally nonrepresentational piece, abstracting can help simplify and strengthen your design.

To work on my abstracting skills I signed up for Lyric Kinard’s Abstract-a-licious online course. To quote Lyric, ” Lessons consist of  concrete design exercises that are clear and easily understood as well as ample encouragement from an award winning teacher. You don’t need to have drawing or design skills as this course is designed to inspire and teach  both the timid beginner and the confident creative.”

The course consists of five play exercises that use pencil, paper, and scissors. There’s no projects involved. So far we’ve done three lessons. The emphasis is on using design principles to develop abstract designs.

First class lesson, unit 1, sketches with line only.
Second lesson, unit 1, adding value to line.
Third class lesson, unit 1, rearranging elements of iron sketch and adding color.
Lesson 2, unit 2, abstract of Degas painting with color added. Lesson 1 was to abstract the painting.
Lesson 1, unit 3, line doodles. I did several.
Lesson 2, unit 3, shaded doodles.
Lesson 3, unit 3, fabric versions of a doodle.
Extra: Fabric doodles with organza overlays.

Once I complete the remaining units I’ll let you know how it all went.

I’m linking this post to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under In Process, Techniques

Facing All Decked Out

After I finished quilting “All Decked Out” I decided to try another way to sew on an edge facing. Most methods leave you with lumpy corners. However, Jean Wells gives a way to face your quilt in her book, “Journey to Inspired Art Quilting,” that keeps extra fabric out of the corners.

You sew together the ends of 2 to 3 inch strips to form a frame that you sew onto the edges of your quilt. The tricky part is getting the frame to match the dimensions exactly.

After you sew around the edges you turn back 1/4 inch on the loose part of the frame. To make this easier, you leave 1/4 inch unsewn on the strip joining seams. You then turn the facing, press the edge a lot, and hand sew the facing down.

As the picture above shows, I did a lot of quilting, which doesn’t show that much on the front.

For those of you who don’t remember this quilt, it’s one of two I created from squares of surface design experiments. The center is an embroidered paint stick rubbing of a glass salad plate. The salmon colored squares are sun prints from crocheted doilies. The blue with white swoops and dots I made in by screen printing with thickened dye. The multi-color sort of pink-purple squares are fabric created from scraps, cheesecloth, and stencil prints. The solid pinkish squares are hand dyed fabrics. The border is made from a Spoonflower printed photo of my deck, run through a filter and done as a mirror image. I did throw in some Marcia Derse fabric in four squares.

I quilted it with variegated 40 weight cotton thread, sort of following the curves of the swoops.

This post is linked to Off The Wall Friday.

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

Fun With the Sun

Cyanotypes, which are actually photographs, are yet another way to create designs on fabric. A cyanotype “is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as blueprints. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide.”

You can coat fabric with those chemicals yourself or you can buy fabric already coated. After that, the process is the same. You choose materials you want to photograph and lay them on the treated fabric.

Then, you cover them with glass or some other clear object to hold the materials in place and expose the fabric to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes.

After you bring the fabric inside you remove the materials and rinse the fabric in water. Then you admire your results.

I had bought a packet of assorted color pretreated cyanotype fabric squares with a gift certificate from Dharma Trading, and was waiting for sunshine and warm weather. When those events aligned I set up my work area on the roof of my screen porch.  Why the roof? Because I can access it through a door from my bedroom. I suppose the people we bought our house from had visions of night star gazing, but it’s three stories up from the driveway and the railing isn’t very high. Also, wasps love to build nests on the railing. So I was happy to find a use for that roof.

I was pleased with my results, and have found many breathtaking examples of this technique online. How about this delicate piece by Linda Sterner?

I have no idea what I’ll make with my crocheted pieces, but I still have eight more treated fabric squares to play with.

 

 

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Filed under Fabric Printing, Techniques

A Landscape Experiment

Back in 2016 I used a phone to take this photo of a downtown Akron intersection, drew up a sketch from it, and then did nothing with it.

I resurrected the sketch when I saw an announcement for a juried local art show called Against The Sky. While I haven’t had luck getting into all media shows, I thought I’d make up my work and then decide whether to enter it.

Luckily I had bought the perfect piece of hand painted fabric for a sunset, which I combined with simplified outlines of the buildings in the photo. I adapted the technique Heather Dubreuil uses for her cityscapes. She outlines buildings and architectural details with black thread by drawing her design on a Sulky heat-away product. She uses the drawing to place fabrics underneath, fuses the fabrics, and then stitches the lines on the iron-away product over everything. She tears away the product after stitching.

Instead, I drew a line design, made freezer paper templates from the design to cut out fused fabric, fused the fabric on my background sky and pavement, and then traced the line design on the Sulky product (I had purchased a package at a quilt show) and stitched over it. Because my fabrics were dark, I used a dark gray thread.

Sketch as line drawing.

Freezer paper templates before cutting out.

Thread color trials. I went with the dark gray that’s on the bottom.

Start of stitching over Sulky product.

Despite the product instructions NOT to use a permanent marker, that’s what I ended up using as wash away markers wouldn’t leave a mark. I was able to tear away most of the plastic so there was little to remove with heat.

I may glue the quilted top to a pre-stretched canvas with black painted edges. Maybe that will make it more appealing to a juror.

Final (before edge finishing) on stretched canvas.

 

 

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Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Techniques