Lending dimension.

Nothing pleases me like sewing. As much as I procrastinate with most things, when it comes time to sew, I am in there like a dirty shirt. This post will take you through part two of my painted bridge quilt. For part one see previous post. I powered through the machine quilting all in one day, but please, for the sake of your own sanity, allot more time than that.

For this stage you will need:

Painted cloth from previous step, thoroughly ironed
Garden variety sewing machine
Various matching or contrasting threads
Piece of backing fabric same size as painted piece
Piece of quilt batting same size or a little bigger
Spray-baste (or pins if you prefer)
Board or canvas
Staples and staple gun
Wire and nails for hanging

Your painted piece is safe to handle now, don’t worry about smudging it. Get your batting, backing and spray baste and head outside.

The first step is to make your quilt sandwich. I decided to try out spray-baste with this project and found it worked really great. Was a little sticky but you could wash it out afterwards. You start by spraying all over your batting, then positioning your backing fabric. It is in theory re-positionable but try to get it on your first go because it buckles if you try to change it. Then you flip over and stick down your painted piece. Try not to smoosh the whole package too much as the spray when wet will compress it more permanently.
Let it dry for a couple minutes and head to your sewing machine. I think I had my stitch size set at 3 but pick something that looks good to you. With your painting facing up, you are just going to trace each of the areas of colour. You can be as detailed as you like, or not. I went off the lines quite a bit to begin with and I think it just added to the sketched quality, so don’t be too too careful.
I started in the middle with the bigger lines and worked my way out to each side. This tacks your batting into place really well so you don’t get any folds. Then I went back and did all the fine detail work. Working this way also means you are feeling like a pro by the time you get to the fine work. When I got to the VERY fine area in the middle of my piece I balled up the rest of the quilt with elastics so I could work freely without fighting the excess fabric.
I used thick dark brown thread for most of the lines, dark red for the rust-coloured areas, and on the railings a soft purple thread designed for jeans. I used a rust colour for my bobbin thread to make it even on the back. I think the more thread colours you used, the better this would look, so go nuts.
I did a fair amount of hand-embroidery after the fact, to outline the little people and do the loose crosses in the rafters. You could skip that part if you wanted to. The next time I try a piece like this I would like to do quite a bit more hand-embroidery. I think it finishes it off nicely. You could even do the whole thing that way.
Here it is all quilted. I love the way it bumps out all the different elements. I think you could take this even further with trapunto (a sort of selective stuffing method) or a double layer of batting. You could hang it just like this or use it as a centerpiece for a larger quilt.
I chose to mount it on a piece of MDF since it will be sold alongside paintings. I laid the piece face-down and put the board on top. Then I temporarily taped around the edges and flipped it over. I wiggled it around until centered, then flipped back over and stapled it profusely. I stretched it a little so it would hug the board, but not so much that I skewed the image or flattened the batting. Then I put a couple nails into the back and wrapped each end of a wire around them for hanging. It came out to 32″ x 16″.
Very important: Always sign and date your work on the back. I also stitch-signed mine with a free-motion foot, you can see it peeking around the bottom right edge.
Here is the picture I was working with for comparision:
Let me know if you make something along similar lines, I would love to see the outcome! It really is so simple, just a little time-consuming. But isn’t that the way with anything worth doing?

I’m unabashedly happy with how it turned out, haha. Can’t wait to make another one, and I am going to have the chance real soon! The last week of this month I am going to be making art in the window of the M&T Deli (Queen St, Fredericton), for the same people who put on this auction. I think it’s going to be a real experience.

I’m going to play with this sort of subject matter a little more too. I like the idea of “softening” industry. Now more than ever we are trying to marry technology with humanity. We have seen the vulgar results when these two areas are left to their own devices. For me, representing this relationship in cloth is a no-brainer.

Building bridges.

I got to work early last week on my painted quilt piece for the Isaac’s Way art auction. It was great fun, lots of little steps, just how I like it. The outcome is complex but the steps are actually very easy, anyone could do it. It is basically an exercise in tracing. But for the sake of respect, if you try this out, please make sure you took the photograph yourself.

This post will take you through part one, painting, and tomorrow’s post will show you how to do part two, quilting.

For this part you will need:

a digital photograph
a laser printer and/or photocopier
a couple of transparent blender pens
a spoon
a big board or piece of foamcore
a piece of cloth (preferably non-stretchy)
gouache paints
textile medium
your favourite paintbrushes
old plates and water cups
plenty of time and scrap fabric

The first step is to print off your image on regular paper to the size of your finished piece plus a couple inches on each side for wraparound. Keep in mind that those couple inches will mostly disappear so keep all the important stuff inside this zone.

Ideally you could just use Adobe Illustrator’s tile printing function with about a quarter-inch of overlap. This means your image will print off in 8.5 x 11 sections. You want to flip (mirror) your image before you print it off or else you will end up with a backwards finished product (like I did by accident, haha). You could also enlarge and flip on a photocopier.
The printer at my school was being difficult so I ended up with no overlap and little spaces in between my sheets. But no biggie. You line them up perfectly and tape them together on the back with tiny little pieces of tape the size of a fingernail tip. I used black and white because photocopies tend to transfer better than laser prints. You could use laser colour prints I believe, just no inkjet.

Then you tape down a piece of cloth (any old cloth, washed natural fabric works nicely but I think it would be alright either way) to a big piece of board. You could even pre-dye the cloth. In retrospect it might have been easier to dye the linen the white of my background colour. I used chipboard which gave me a funny wood grain on my transfer, but I think you’d get clearer results on a flat base, like foamcore.

Next you place your image face down on the cloth. You want to tape it at the edges so it doesn’t wiggle. Then you get this magic tool called a transparent blender pen (I used Chartpak, and I think you can get it at most art supply stores). You colour on the back of the image, a little area at a time, maybe the size of your hand. Then you rub it with a spoon, being careful not to shift the page. You continue doing this until you have rubbed down the entire image. It’s probably a good idea to practice this step before you start, and you may need more than one pen. And it smells like magic marker, so ventilate your area.
Now you peel up the pages very gently. I found that it took so long to go over the entire piece that it had glued the pages to the cloth by the time I took it off. It might be better to peel up each page as you finish rubbing it, but only if you are doing something fairly large. Voila! Your image is now transferred onto your fabric.

Next I dug out my paints. I chose to use gouache, but I think any fast-drying paint would work. Please test it out on scrap so you can get an idea of how it looks, especially if you are planning on washing it. Things always run more smoothly when I mix my paints in advance. In this case I only needed a handful of colours.
Some other time I will explain the logic behind paint mixing but I’m sure there are many many good guides to colour on the internet. The most important thing I have found is to always “muddy” your colours with their complement (put a little blue in your orange). That keeps them looking more natural and they won’t clash with one another.

Next step is painting. I scoop out a little paint onto a plate, and stir in a bit of this varnishy-looking stuff called textile medium. Probably about six parts paint to one part textile medium, although you should follow package instructions if you plan on laundering. I was going for a more washed out look. It looks so neat when you squirt it into the paint.

Then I used both flat and round brushes to cover the whole image in paint. It took a while to figure out how thick to lay it on. Not very, but enough to look opaque. Use lots of water. With gouache you won’t know what it looks like until it dries. I left the mint green railing areas quite translucent as I wanted the wood-grain transfer to show through.

I switched over to a foamcore backing, and used a ruler to get all the lines really straight. Sounds compulsive, but it ended up being easier and faster that way, especially when it came time to sew.
Right in the middle the transfer was too shoddy to see so I had to line it up and transfer again. This helped more than I was expecting and I was able to eyeball it after that. Here is the completed painting. At this point you should press it for a couple minutes with a piece of parchment paper in between cloth and iron. You could also wash it but I chose not to for lack of time. It took a couple days but worth every second. And much easier than trying to piece a thousand bits of fabric.
It looked really nice with light shining through it. Gave me big ideas for painted curtains and lampshades.

Come on back tomorrow to see it all quilted up! That part is a little more fiddley but still pretty foolproof. I am glad I picked a photo with lots of straight lines, I would definitely recommend that to beginners. This was my first real quilt (non-paper) and I think there would have been a lot more hair pulling otherwise.

Try it out, you’ll like it :)

Glacial rust.

Sometimes things go horribly wrong but in such an intriguing way that you have to share it. That was my experience with this whole rust endeavour.

I set out to dye cloth to use as part of my pieced train bridge quilt, but ended up changing my mind. Since I chose to paint instead of piece the quilt, I had no more immediate use for the cloth I had dyed with rust. At any rate it turned out quite lovely and will be used in the future. Especially fond of this thin piece of grey cotton shirting. It would make a nice summer top or bag interior.
It was all a little more yellow than I had anticipated. Maybe it was the acidity. Love the big red blotches on the linen (left). The canvas was pretty dark khaki already and didn’t change much (right)

The little chunk of silk organza (on the right) took the colour really well. Strangely, this little sample of charcoal polyester (on the left) was actually discharged by the rust. Definitely going to have to try that one with a bigger swatch.

Now I was left with a bunch of very very rusty-red vinegar that I had been using for dyeing.

I got to thinking that maybe I could use it as fabric paint. I tried painting it on there as was but it just washed right out. So I thought maybe I could reduce it on the stove and thicken it up…

Success! (I thought). It darkened right up and got far thicker than I expected. It was literally as slow as cold molasses in January.

While I was congratulating myself on making this beautiful rust paint, I turned away for maybe 30 seconds to clean my pot. When I turned back, something curious was happening…
The liquid was crusting over at an alarming rate! In less than a minute it was a rock solid crystal.

Neato, huh? Not what I was going for by a long shot but much more interesting. Metals naturally form into crystals so it was probably the iron’s fault. I assume I oversaturated the solution through heating, and then the metal crystallized out as it cooled.  Apparently though, pure vinegar is called “glacial acetic acid” because it forms ice-like crystals just below room temperature. Hard to say, since there was no liquid left in the bowl, I guess it all crystallized. Any thoughts?

Trying to think up some use for this weird substance. I tried crushing it into the textile medium but it broke off in shards rather than forming a powder so it just got adhered to the surface of the cloth. Maybe in future I could try boiling the textile medium with the rusty vinegar, and not for nearly so long.
I love experiments. They seldom go as you plan but that’s what they’re for. And now I have this strange crystal recipe to put in my memory banks and pull out for some future project.

The makings of rust.

You lovely folk have helped me to choose the Train Bridge photograph for my auction textile. I was so impressed by voter turn-out, thanks a ton! I’ve re-coloured it a little, and given it symmetry. While I enjoyed the bluish twilight tinge, it took away the rust colour that I love.

I’ve printed it off in sections to 32×16, which I will now stick to cardboard. Then I’ll x-acto out each little piece of bridge to use as pattern for cutting the cloth.

I was going to use fabric I had around the house, but looking at the lovely colour variation in the wood and metal I realized it should really be hand-dyed. Fabricville was having a great sale yesterday so I slipped out and bought a collection of dyeable neutrals. Cotton, linen, canvas, muslin. Natural materials feel so nice on the skin.

Since my favourite thing about that bridge is its rusty rusty surface, I’ve been thinking I’d try to dye its rafters with actual rust. Been checking out some different tutorials. This one looks real promising if I can find the ferrous sulfate. Her shibori is beautiful, I love the blue/grey iron variant:

Artstitches: Rust Solution Dyeing Tutorial.

Today I went to the college for a little while. I was talking to the co-ordinator for the Nature Trust exhibit we are having in October. They’ve decided the title will be Nature of Art/Art of Nature. And apparently it will be held at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John (that’s a big deal!!) and then coming here to Fredericton. I’ve been getting ideas in my sleep for this project, something along the lines of a multi-tiered puzzle (could I be more vague?).

We can pay to use our school’s amenities during the summer, how cool is that? I took pictures of my 3D work from this year in the little photo studio, so I’ll be able to take you on a walk-through of some of my final projects in the coming days.

Alright, I’m off to spend the day in the sun and the evening in a pile of cloth!

Context/Texture

So I’m back after a little hiatus to finish up the school year and get my messy house in order. There has been a lot going on, so I will have to take a few days to get through it all.

To start with, I’d like to take you on a little tour of our textiles show at the college. I wish I could take you there in person, it’s such a vibrant room to stand in, you can hardly leave in a bad mood.

Here are the collection of scarves which hang in the middle of the room. You can see my nebula scarf toward the left, as well as some other sky-inspired pieces made by my classmates. Toward the back in white and red are a couple of devoré/discharge scarves made by the graduating class.

From left: Iddo van der Geer, Allison Green, Monique Arnold, Kaitlyn Clark

Next we see some stunning felt corsets (completely seamless!) made by my comrades in arms. Next store some fellow with marvelous taste is checking out my “Brief History of Written Communication” paper quilt.

Allison Green, Megan McGeachy

Next in line are the repeat patterns designed and painted in gouache by my surface design class. My blimps are in the middle with a stippled paint technique, and the other girls chose the embroidery-look technique.

Jenna Brayall, Allison Green, Stevie Holyoke

These are a collection of ethnographic samples from the fibre arts group. They are basically contemporized versions of traditional symbols. They are felted, sewn together, and embroidered.

These next are some incredible felt scarves by Alexandra Keely. They remind me of seaweed.

Also reminiscent of seaweed, this time the pods that you snap between your fingers, is this piece by Holly McGee. This picture hardly does it justice. In each pod there are little surprises of stitching and pearls.

These are a couple of capes, the blue one by Jenna Brayall. She has felted directly onto silk organza, and has sewn tiny little beads down the front for an extra bit of whimsy. Way in the back you can see a canvas floor mat printed with a croc and balloons, which was made by a second-year surface student.

Here is a lovely woven piece, second year fibre arts I believe. It iappears both delicate and warm, quite a feat. Beside it are the blankets woven by first and second years.

Here are my nursery rhyme pieces. My ladybug is upside down but she doesn’t really mind, being on fire can be confusing. Next to them are completed nursery rhyme repeat patterns by Stevie Holyoke. At the front is a paper dress by Miss Keely made from little notes and scraps. I suspect it has a story I don’t know it yet.

And lastly we have some woven scarves, delightful felted boots, and woven/felted festival poncho. These are all by first year fibre arts I believe. At the back are some batiked silk kerchiefs, and entering stage right, a blur monster.

Clio Windust, Iddo van der Geer, and more.

It was a show we were all so proud of, and wildly successful to boot. I’ve never seen so many at an opening at our school gallery. The show is aptly named as it is beautifully textural, and the skill in our department really shines through. Yay us!

When nature overtakes architecture

Today was an extended and entirely pleasant day in the surface design studio. Many people around, some sort of open house to publicize the school and they were all very inquisitive. I was working away on some screen printing, texture samples, and a cityscape while the lady at the table across made encaustic board games. I spent the whole day intoxicated by the smell of beeswax. Could there be a more sticky drug? Teehee.

Here are the beginnings of my salt crystal cityscape. I left it at the school to grow (far too fragile for frolicking) and am chomping at the bit to go check on it. I suspect it will be half way to full-grown by the time I wake up. Probably make some coffee related excuse to go downtown and see it first thing.

Step One: Fabricate a cardboard city. Massacre it (and your hands) with food colouring, everyone`s favourite multi-medium.

Step Two: Flood your city with a foul-smelling blue concoction (recipe courtesy Mik3 at Instructables).

Step Three: Wait for the magic! I made this tester in advance so the suspense wouldn’t kill me. It makes me think of what skyscrapers might look like if all the people left and nature reclaimed its territory.

Also, I couldn’t be more satisfied with my dinosaur prints. Hooray for discharge paste! Here are the first couple bags. Need a little embellishment yet. Maybe some zigzag stitching and a button or two.

Time for sleep, more projects tomorrow :)

– Allison Green