Relinquishing grip.

I miraculously forgot about my rust buckets for a couple of days. Guess I was too busy worrying about the piece overall. When I came back to it today the chain bucket looked like this:

For some reason it only dyed in the areas that were out of the liquid, where the rusty vinegar had wicked up into the cloth. I’m hoping those parts were just exposed to more oxygen. I dumped the liquid into the other bucket (which had done nothing) and with a little luck the iron on the cloth will oxidize.

What a pretty colour though! A much stronger red than anticipated.

While that was working away, I was stressing big time. Today I was cutting up my bridge pattern. Gradually then suddenly I was overcome with bleary-eyed frustration. And no, it had nothing to do with the act of cutting. I couldn’t decide whether to piece the fabric bits together with sewing machine or appliqué them onto one big sheet by hand. Piecing would be more difficult in keeping the bits lined up while hand-stitching would take more time.

I have been consumed by this question for several days, with no headway. Might seem silly, but it’s not like I could progress further without answering that question. Of a sudden I realized I couldn’t choose because neither seemed doable by Friday.

I am never a fan of quitting, but sometimes you need to accept your own limitations and move in a slightly different direction. Once I allowed myself to think of different choices, one came along very quickly, like it was waiting in the rafters. So I put away the cloth I had dyed for the occasion and moved on.

I am going to paint the train bridge image onto one single piece of linen with gouache, then quilt and stitch it afterwards. I won’t have to worry about piecing at all and can focus on  colour and finishing. This flash of inspiration has me excited about this project all over again. Me and gouache are best friends, and so I am a very happy camper.

I gleefully dug out my paints and started sampling. The top row here has half and half Sonja’s textile medium and Holbein gouache, with varying amounts of water. The second row is simply gouache and water. The third was a photo transfer using blending pen (more about this later) with gouache/textile medium painted over.

I stuck them in the wash with regular detergent to see if the textile medium would soften up (it had developped a displeasing sort of acrylic look). It did a bit, but still too cakey on the heavy areas. Interestingly, the gouache alone weathered the wash just fine. Little bit came off, but nothing like you would expect.

I don’t intend this piece to be washed after it is sold, it will be stapled to MDF and hung on someone’s wall. I was just a little worried about running unwashed paint through my sewing machine. In light of this development with the unmixed gouache, I think I’m just going to use it straight.

Today will be a play day, with lots and lots of painting.

Praying to the rust fairy.

Today I discovered that ferrous sulphate is nowhere to be found in Fredericton. Garden stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, pharmacies; all came up empty. My only hit was in the “online only” section of Home Depot website. No time to be ordering away, the bridge piece needs finishing in the next week.

So for experiment #1 I settled for a big ol’ piece of chain, which unfortunately is galvanized. I put in the fabric, weighed it down with the chain, and poured in about 2 L of vinegar.

It immediately began to fizz. I suspect it is the zinc coating coming off. At any rate, I took it out to the shed for safety’s sake. Who knows what all is toxic these days. Don’t want to be breathing anything in.

When I was at the pharmacy I looked for iron sulphate but found only iron bisglycinate. I bought a bottle anyhow.

So for experiment #2, I followed the instructions here but with the whole bottle of iron supplement. It really seemed to have no effect at all (fabric was already cream-tinted). However you are supposed to let it dry before washing out so maybe if will oxidize overnight.

For Experiment #3, I grabbed the bucket of iron tablets/4 L of water that I had used above and threw in about a cup of vinegar. I put some fabric in, weighed it down with a wine bottle, and put it in the shed.

This was maybe an hour after Experiment #1 got started, and check out the foaming action now! Neato!

It looks like most of the shiny coating has come off the chain, so hopefully the next step is rust. Or it could all go horribly wrong and I’ll have to suck it up and use synthetics.

Cross your fingers for me!

Nebulous attire

I’ve finished my nebula scarf! It was relatively quick and easy once I took the time out. At first I was really unhappy with it (silliness!), but now I am in love. I think a lot of the problem was that the colours were dulled when wet so it didn’t really pop.

I strive for realism, and it’s hard to let go of that banana. Felt is hardly a photographic medium so it is a good exercise in letting go. The colours are spot on, and I think I captured the overall “nebulous-ness” of the source photo.










I dyed a ton of wool and other fibres beforehand in some really variegated acidwash dye pots. Don’t tell my teacher, but by the end I was just sprinkling dye in willy-nilly. When I felt I had the whole array of colours from the source photo, I let it dry and headed to school.


There I started my felt “painting”. I laid out little shingles of the wool (thanking my lucky stars that it hadn’t felted too much in the pot!) until I had covered a large rectangular area. Then I put another layer of shingles pointing in the opposite direction. With these two layers I created the background colours.

I put down a few gemstones between the layers, which would have played the part of the stars. They almost all ended up falling out when I beat the felt at the end, so I’ll know to make the felt thicker if I want to use that technique again. As it is I am happy with the thinness of the felt, it makes for a nice drapey scarf.

Once I had the background filled in, I put down some polyester organza for the nebula. It was orangey-brown to begin with, and I dyed it a little darker. Then I added some silk hankie in orange, pink, and white, to accentuate the edges and give that glow from behind. I also used some silk thread I had from fraying the Habotai strips for my Indigo line. Pack-ratting at its best.


The polyester areas are raised and dimpled, and all of the alternative fibres have a nice sheen. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a little light will shine through it, showing the really interesting patterns in the felt.

I’ve also finished my Indigo line, and couldn’t be happier. They have been whisked away for inclusion in the textiles show (this Thursday, 4-6!) so that will be a post for another day.

Thank you to everyone who voted on which pieces I should submit to the show! I happily went with your choices, the nursery rhymes and the blimps, as well as my paper quilt. I will be sure to take some pictures of my work in-situ.

I will be a little scarce the next week, wrapping up the school year. Have a nice day :) I sure did.

Physical felt.

Made some neat felt samples last week. I love felting class. It’s really a full-body art form. Your arms are so tough by the end of the day and you have so much texture to show for it!

This one was a secondary fibre sample, a variety of different wools, silks, I can’t even remember what all. It is coloured with acidwash dyes in island blue.

And so with this one. As you can see the colour is very uneven, by design. This is accomplished by putting very little water in your dye pot, stirring it not at all, and never letting it boil too robustly. Oh, and it’s best if you use a dye that is a mix of many colours, like chestnut, plum, and island blue. This causes the dye to split in the pot and you get a whole collection of colours on your felt.

This next little guy is the product of resist felting. You put down a couple layers of wool, then a bit of bubble wrap, then more wool, then more bubble wrap, until you have a nice little tumour. Then you rub rub rub until it’s nice and felty.

Then you cut open all the layers of your lovely little boil, and pull out the bubble wrap. It practically jumps out at you! The felt shrinks around it and so it gets all balled up in there : ) This one has some plastic mesh in one of the layers. Wouldn’t it look cool with a big marble in that hole?

This one has nylons felted in. Yes, nylons as in pantyhosen. It has just a tiny bit of sparkle and a bubbly monster skin effect.

This next one uses polyester organza, and has beautiful dimpling. This happens when you felt into secondary structures like porous fabrics. As you felt the barbs of the wool latch onto your cloth. Then as the felt shrinks, it gathers the cloth along with it. I dyed this piece later and was shocked that the polyester took the colour. I knew acidwash would dye nylon but not this kind of thing. Super cool.

I also biffed this silk hankie in on top of my chestnut dye pot when I was colouring the resist pieces above. While they came out brown and green, this guy ended up mustard and navy blue. Just goes to show the number of colours that go into that dye.

Our next project for that class is a scarf inspired by a photograph of a sky. I chose a nebula. Specifically this nebula (found here).

Thinking about trying to felt in some glass bits for the stars. We shall see how that works out. Little behind on the schoolwork what with finishing off the light fixture masterpiece, but c’est la vie. I have only exciting projects left so it won’t take a whole lot of motivation : )

Daffodils, bladder cherries, tea, and indigo

Last evening I received a bundle of daffodils. They look so pretty with the indigo yarn and cloth scraps I’ve been amassing.

We have a group indigo vat going on at school right now. So interesting. If you don’t know about this amazing plant, check it out. Think blue jeans. Basically, when you pull your cloth out, it’s light green. Then as it oxidizes it magically turns blue.

Very rich. A little too royal blue for my liking so I decided to over-dye it with tea. Yup, regular old tea is a pretty sweet colourant.

It turned out pretty well. The silk strips came out with a beautiful goldy tinge, and so with the wool, but the cotton didn’t take the tea as readily. Perhaps another dip tomorrow.

So silvery : )

All of this indigo business is headed toward a line of three scarves. I’ve decided to make woven neck cuffs (or cowls, or scarflettes, whatever you like to call them) that contain a whole collection of different yarns, strings and cloth strips. They are going to let me use a loom for a few weeks although I am not a fibre arts student (I am in textile design, little different). Anyway, very excited. I love weaving so. You would too if you tried it.

Other than indigo-ing I’ve been picking out nursery rhymes for my mixed media textured pieces. I think I’ve decided on Peter Pumpkin Eater, Hickory Dickory Dock, Ladybug Ladybug, and Sing a Song of Six Pence. But don’t hold me to that.

And I made these pretty t-shirts for digital class. They are called “Bladder Cherry”, which is a most amusing term for Chinese Lanterns. The original design (seen on the black shirt) was for a set of “art blinds”. It was drawn in Illustrator. These are just iron-on transfers, but I think after seeing the results I will make up a couple of screen prints with similar motifs. Little more permanent that way.