Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Get Your Weave On!

I flit from craft to craft, art to art, medium to medium, like a pollen-drunk bumblebee in a flower nursery! One of my latest obsessions (still in the fiber realm) is weaving . . . I wove on a full-size loom in college, and found it to be pretty zen, but will admit to being discouraged by the high cost of looms . . . ok, and the tediousness of setting up the loom to begin with!

Sister Diane of CraftyPod to the rescue with her podcast on Weaving Made Super-Simple (check out the links!), and her more recent Cardboard Loom tutorial here on CraftStylish. I listened to the podcast about a month ago, and just got around to trying the weaving-with-fusible-webbing thing (see picture below). Now, I've got to go set up a cardboard loom so that I can get my weave on while watching old episodes of Crossing Jordan! (Will Season 2 come out on DVD already?!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In the Garden

Art-making can be a really in-your-head kind of thing . . . and that's part of why I have been so happy for the last few weeks of sunny days. It's gotten me out of the studio and into the yard. As Michael5000 so eloquently pointed out in his recent Portland gardening post, not doing anything with the yard means that things will get completely out of control - not that they will die. Getting out there after months of rain, I discovered that my yard had been invaded by some kind of sticky-burr-crawling-vine thing and several kinds of weird grasses, along with the usual blackberries and ivy. Nice plants, I'm sure, but lets face it - they can be bullies.

Of course, there were also these big white puffy flowers:

Which are sitting in a vase outside because they also happen to be covered in ANTS! ack.

But it does get me out of my head a little bit, back into my body - and sneezing. Lots and lots of sneezing. And swinging. My friend Michael was able to reinforce the crazy wonderful play structure in my back yard so that it will hold a %$! pound adult, and I stained it the same color as the deck, and voila. Swinging heaven.

I've also planted tomatoes and calla lilies and a few sedums and chard. Not all in the same place, but all with sneezes. I can deal with the sneezes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More Food and Fabric Experiments . . .

Apparently, I'm stuck in a rut of mixing food and fabric. Oh well, they are two of my favorite things! And - as the flour paste batik demo showed - they can be two great things that work great together!

Last week, I played around with dying some fabrics - I tried instant coffee and walnut crystals to give things an antiqued look. Here's a place where you can get the walnut crystals online, though I get mine locally at collage, the new store near SE 44th and Woodstock.

Here, you can see the plain muslin, then the muslin soaked overnight in walnut crystals dissolved in warm water and finally, the muslin soaked overnight in instant coffee dissolved in warm water. Because I'm going to use these in art quilts and not for clothing, I just rinsed them and then dried them. I think they would've faded a bit more if I'd washed them.

Here's some cotton ticking that I bought - again, the first one is plain, the second one is soaked in the walnut crystal solution overnight, the third was boiled in instant coffee solution for 10 minutes, and the last one was soaked in instant coffee solution overnight.

And I'm sure that some of you are going to ask me about amounts . . . "how much walnut crystal to how much water? And how much yardage were you dyeing?" and I'm going to start throwing out really pathetic things like "Maybe a few tablespoons of walnut crystals, and maybe six cups of water, but I'm not sure, because I mostly just eyeballed it and threw in maybe a yard of fabric, I dunno." Really, this is just my way of pushing you to experiment! Cool-Aid, anyone?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

DEMO! Flour Paste Batik

Batik is a resist method of fabric dyeing that uses wax . . . I did a lot of traditional batik back in the early 90's. It's a lot of fun, and you can get some incredible effects. The downside is getting the wax out of the fabric. The easiest method I found was dry-cleaning, though I also know people who would iron the fabric between sheets of newspaper. Over and over and over . . .

Since I'm only doing small batches now, and doing it primarily for use in fiber art (not clothing) I've been looking for an easier, dry-cleaning free method of getting the same effects. Interestingly, there are other traditions that use starchy pastes for the resist, like rice paste in Japan or cassava flour in Africa. Here in North America, we can just use a little wheat flour!


1/2 cup flour, + a few extra tablespoons
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons alum (helps keep nasty smelly bits from growing)
stretcher bars
fine tip squeeze bottle or icing tips
fabric paint* I originally said "dye," but you really want to use diluted paint
paint brush
spray bottle
parchment paper or press cloth

1. Start with 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup water, and 2 teaspoons of alum.

2. Mix them together, and then slowly add additional flour tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture has the texture of pancake batter and will hold moderate peaks. (If it's too liquid, it can be hard to control)

3. Let the batter sit for a few minutes while you prep the fabric. In this sample, I'm using a piece of muslin stretched over canvas stretcher bars, but you could also stretch a t-shirt or other garment over some stretcher bars. Start by tacking down the four corners.

4. Then start filling in the rest of the tacks. This gives you a more even stretch.

5. Fill either a fine-tip squeeze bottle or a pastry bag with your batter. (I really like working with the pastry bag, and it's a lot easier to fill than the squeeze bottle - this stuff can get messy!)

6. Start drawing your pattern! Since this is a resist, anywhere you draw with the paste will stay the same color as the fabric underneath it.

I covered the whole surface with this swirly pattern.

7. And then I let it dry overnight. It takes a long time to dry, and you don't want to put color on it while it's wet.

8. And then I took it off the stretcher bars, and balled it up. This causes the dried flour paste to crack. When you apply the color, it will seep into the cracks, giving you the characteristic appearance of traditional batik.

9. There are several ways to apply the color. Because the flour paste is water soluble, you don't want to do a full immersion dye, but you can apply it other ways. One of my favorite ways is to spray the color on. I use Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow (it's a paint that is very liquid like a dye) and mix it with a little water in a Mini-Mister from Ranger, though you can use other spray misters and other watered down paint.  *I've edited this to eliminate the word "dye" - as you can see from the comments, dye needs a mordant, and it's likely that only a professional fiber artist would be able to successfully apply a true dye to the surface.  Rit, etc., won't set properly just applied to the surface.  (I think there is a version of Procion dye that will work, but for most folks, just pull out the fabric paint!)

10. Just mist it lightly over the surface.

11. Then you can also use Jacquard paints (I'm using NeoPaques here) or other fabric paints thinned with a little water and brush them on the surface.

12. Now, let it dry. You can stop now and skip right down to step 15, or . . . .

13. You can add another layer of flour paste. The places where you put the flour paste will preserve the color underneath. Then let it dry . . .

14. And add another layer of fabric paint. And let it dry again.

15. When it's all dry, scrape off the biggest chunks of the flour paste with your fingers.

It takes a while, but it's kind of relaxing . . .

16. Heat set the fabric with an iron using medium high heat and no steam.  (Most fabric paints need heat to set them, and this is the way to do it.)  I put it between pieces of parchment to protect the iron. Again, don't set the heat too high (you don't need the linen setting), and don't use steam. It effectively cooks the leftover wheat paste into the fabric. Trust me, this is bad. (It's also a bad idea to try and heat set the fabric in the microwave. Really.)

17. Wash your fabric. This gets the last of the wheat paste out along with any excess color.

Here's how the fabric looks after one coat of paste and dye . . .

And here it is after two coats!

Added June 25, 2008: I also need to give credit where credit is due - I didn't make up this technique from thin air! Teachers have been using a similar method in classrooms for ages, in part as a way of introducing students to the even older fabric dying techniques of Indonesia, Asia, and Africa, including true batik, which uses hot wax. Here are some of the resources I checked out when I was working out my recipe and technique: The Getty Teacher Art Exchange, Kids at Art Summer Workshop, and the I Am An Artist site. If you're a teacher, or work with kids, it looks like these places might be great resources for you!!

Edited June 18, 2012: updated to eliminate references to fabric dyes - you really just want to use some type of fabric paint!

Secret Stitching

This is a belated gift for my Mom's birthday (the piece I mentioned in Friday's post) . . . I'm mailing it to Texas tomorrow, so nobody tell her, ok? It's a photo my Dad took of the two of us in the early-to-mid 70's, I think somewhere in New Mexico. I love my Mom's long braids . . . and the way she's looking out at Dad while I'm looking up at her is a pretty poignant moment.

I don't do a lot of embroidery, and I've just started working with art quilts (ie, actually quilting the fabric, not just piecing and layering it!), so this was a bit of stretch for me. I transfered the image onto the fabric (I can't remember if I did a xylene or a citrasolv transfer), then did some embroidery, then quilted it and added a little more decorative stitching. It's pretty small, maybe 9"x12", and it's made to be hung up.

I really like the way the turned out - even though it's not square, even though I'm not going to show you the back because the quilting wasn't proper (lots of knots back there!), even though I noticed some threads that aren't pulled tight. And I think that's part of why I like it - it's so imperfect, and it's so much about the process - all the uneven little stitches, the visible construction. It feels sweet to me, somehow. Imperfect, but still hanging together, still beautiful. Kind of like family. Kind of like me and my Mom.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Abuzz About Assemblage . . .

Jen Worden wrote last month about how assemblage tends to come together in waves . . . you'll go weeks without any new assemblage work to show because you're tweaking this, adding that, waiting for the glue or the paint to dry and then - voila! - suddenly you have a bunch of pieces done. Today is "that day" for me.

Remember the bee piece I started back at Artfest in April? Here it is, all installed in its cigar box . . . the surface of the box had been flocked, so it felt like velvet. Don't ever let anyone tell you painting on velvet is easy. Or collaging on velvet either, for that matter.

And here's another piece that I've been working on for awhile. The picture on the left is one of me with my mom, taken by my dad over 30 years ago. Through the keyhole, you can see another picture, this one of my mom and dad while they were dating in college.

I call it "Wishes." My dad died a little over five years ago, and my mom and I both wish he was still with us. I'm working on another version of the photo on the left for my mom as a *belated* birthday gift. She doesn't drop by the blog very often, so I'll scan a photo of it and post it before I mail it off to her . . . I really enjoy reworking the same images in different ways.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Things That Seem to be Simple, But Turn Out to be Very Complicated

These things include:

1. Losing 10 lbs.
2. Replacing the circular florescent light bulbs in the kitchen.
3. Remembering to call my mother on her birthday.

Update:  Phew!!  I did manage to reach my mom - even though I thought it would be too late to call - and we had a great conversation.  I still need to lose 10 lbs and the light bulbs I replaced in the kitchen still don't work, but I'm considering the resolution of #3 evidence that the world still has room for miracles!

Foam Stamping: The Follow-Up

Here's a follow-up for Gretchin, who left a question on yesterday's Foam Stamping post.

I don't actually mix textures and colors on the individual foam pieces; each one is a separate print. I let them dry, trim them . . .

and then combine them into a single collage!

And I love the way the buttons came out . . . Yup, it's a series!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Foam Stamping

Making stamps with foam still has me delighted, even after the crazy TV appearance and doing a DEMO for the blog. Here's my latest experiment - a foam stamp made with a zipper impression, and one made with a mesh fabric . . . I stamped each one separately, then cut and combined the resulting images . . . I love this effect! I'm thinking about doing several with the zipper open different amounts, and with different things being revealed by the zipper.

I can see a whole series of these, combined with collage and other elements - maybe I could even make a button placket foam stamp, too, and play with it as an opening and closing element.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More Positive Thinking . . .

I've had the heat on the last few days . . . and I wore a turtleneck on Memorial Day. In spite of the unseasonably cold weather (and my constant whining about the lack of sun) I am still thinking about summer clothes. My bedroom floor is littered with sandals and espadrilles, I've been wearing capris, and I am obsessed with little summer dresses. I spotted one kind of like this at Target (though now I can't find it on their website):

They didn't have one at my local store that fit, so I picked up some funky fabrics at Fabric Depot and decided to make my own! The style is so simple - basically, it's a big tube with elastic around the waist/hips and adjustable shoulder straps fed through a casing at the top of the tube . . . The fabrics I got are both from Robert Kaufman. I was looking for cotton knits with funky patterns, but found these spandex blends instead. They way they drape is really cool . . .

I just hope they don't end up as UFO's!* My guess though is that I'll have them done in time for warm weather. Like, maybe next year.

*UnFinished Objects

Friday, June 6, 2008

Of Men and Crafting . . .

So today while I was working in the studio, testing out some fabric techniques for an upcoming DEMO, I was catching up on some podcasts. CraftyPod recently had a podcast on men who craft (and one of the guests was our own Michael5000, quilter and State of the Craft blogger) and it really got me to thinking.

Most of the people I teach in my classes, and most of the people I know in the mixed-media art and craft world, are women. But in my own childhood, both my parents were crafty, and so was my grandmother. My grandmother - my dad's mom - knit, crocheted, sewed, cooked, did needlepoint and painted china. My mom sewed and quilted and cooked. My dad cooked, did latch-hook rugs (I remember one he made featuring the "Love is" characters), worked with leather and wood, knit (he learned by watching his mother) and even made chainmail from split rings! Here I am, wearing a coif, or chain mail hood, that my dad made.

Thinking back on this, I'm so glad that I got to work with my Dad in his shop growing up. I got to be as comfortable with a scroll saw as I was with a sewing machine. And I'm glad that I got a chance to see my Dad working on a latch-hook rug while he watched John Wayne movies. Talk about challenging gender roles.