Friday, January 1, 2016

Eyes Wide Open: Assessing the Journey

Happy New Year, 2016!

Can you believe we've put 2015 to bed already? Looking back, it was an excellent year despite the bumps in the road. (We all have bumps.) The Winnie-the-Pooh in me says 2016 will be even more spectacular, so let me send a little of my optimism your way.

I've been lying low on the blogging side of things, but been fully immersed in homework. For the past many weeks you could find me surrounded by stacks of books about the surface design of fabric: paints, stamps, stencils, or anything that was applied to just the surface. Another stack was devoted to the process of dyeing and discharge, or anything applied to the whole fabric by immersion. I've separated the two ideas to help me stay sane. For someone like me dipping her toes into fabric manipulation, it has been a daunting task to figure it all out. I've had to tease out the process from the chemistry from the art, and I'm finally at the point where I can say, "Ah-hah! I get it!" Or, at least some of it.

I needed to have the particulars of the big picture before I felt comfortable sharing more with you, but, "WOW! Do I have a lot to share now!" 

Above any of the dozens of other books I can recommend on surface design, this is the best so far. It's a perfect starting point for anyone who wants a primer, but I keep referring back to it for specific techniques and tips as I work through different processes. One very helpful item is a list of products to start with. There's nothing so frustrating as trying to get underway, and finding out you're missing a key component or material.

Hunting and Gathering

Years of homeschooling have left me with an arsenal of art materials on hand, but there were a few items I was missing. Can you already tell what some of these are for? Today I'm raiding the tools we have for general house and room painting, and gathering everything in one spot. It's surprising how many household items are perfect for making marks on fabric.

I suppose I'm partial to the Jacquard product line because of the work I've been doing with the Procion MX Dyes, but I picked these 2 sampler packs up to experiment with. These are paints, not dyes, though, and each has individual properties. 

Textile Traditionals is a paint line specifically for fabric, and Colorless Extender (shown below) is used to keep the paint workable for a longer period of time. It also makes the paint more transparent. This fabric paint is known for a 'soft hand', or in plain English, the fabric should feel soft and pliable.

The Lumiere line contains paints formulated for fabric which have metallic flake in them to simulate a glittery or pearly shine to the application. They are ideal for darker fabrics, more opaque, and useful to highlight areas vs. overall painting. Lumiere uses a different extender than Textile Traditions, but I wasn't able to find that locally. 

Liquitex is another product line I am eager to try for fabrics. Why? First: I have a large supply of the Basics line, which is their economy version. According to the literature, the Basics line is sold in tubes at a single price, and is an exceptional product. Their Professional Artist line is a higher grade because of the concentration of pigments and durability, and intended to last for generations. I don't really need that quality to experiment with, and it makes sense to use up what I already have on hand.

Second: Resources and support. I spent hours on their website reading, downloading, and watching videos. There is a wealth of information available. The Liquitex Acrylic Book has everything you need to answer your questions about acrylics. It's available as a free download.

Third, and the Biggie of them All: Liquitex Acrylic products are recommended for painting on fabrics! The span of products goes from heavy paints--think pudding, to soft body paints--more fluid, spray paints, markers, and inks. All are permanent without heat setting, but do read the details on the site about washing, etc. While they are referring to the Professional Artist's line, I will be testing out my Basics line, and share my work here very soon.

A couple more perks: Their ink, called Ink!, is actually a fluid, pigmented acrylic. Simpler put, other inks are dye-based, and dyes fade. So, not only is the Ink! line going to be colorfast, but it's completely intermixable with all the other Liquitex products. You can use Liquitex products together, mix them together as in mixing ink into paint, etc., and nearly every Liquitex medium intermixes too.

(What's a medium, you're wondering? A medium is something you can add to the acrylic to make it shinier, less shiny, stay wet longer, etc.) The Flow-Aid above is considered a concentrated medium, and I will be using it to keep my acrylics workable longer. 

I honestly can't wait to start showing you my latest work!

Summing It Up for 2015

About my recent detour from quilting: While I haven't been stitching in many days, I've not ventured far. 2015 focused on learning about all the basics of quilt making: choosing fabrics, patterns, stitching, and making lots and lots of different kinds of quilts. It was like eating at a grand buffet, and I wanted to try a bite of everything. I'm so lucky I recorded what I tried. A few things showed up on my plate over and over.

The last few months have been a period of figuring out which one of those things I enjoyed most, and focusing my attention. I now have some loosely defined goals, and directions for my work in 2016. 

#1. I favor organic quilt design, i.e. form and function.

I am most attracted to elements that might be defined as art quilting, but want to use them in functional items. For example, repurposed materials, hand-dyed fabric, specialty threads, etc. Some of these are fragile, and unsuitable for daily use. My materials need to be durable, machine washable, and able to withstand the ocassional dog nesting in the quilt. 

#2. Improvisational and original design are delightful, and I want to do more. 

Nothing makes me more excited than defining a few parameters or rules, and building a quilt around them. I want to make quilts with elements that push me to figure out how to make them work. 

#3. I can't find what I need to make what I want.

The colors and patterns I dream of are not found in the bolts of my quilt store. I want to be a quilt smith, and hammer out my own materials. This not only takes me back to where I believe the first quiltmakers started, but also into the future.

I hope you're doing the same, and giving thought to your journey both past and future. 

With eyes wide open...

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


QuiltShopGal said...

Fun post packed with great tips. Love your title too! I still think you are a natural at fabric design.


Jinger said...

Julie, your excitement is contagious! What a great year of discovery 2015 has been for you; I look forward to seeing you "work it out" in 2016.

Unknown said...

Happy New Year to you too!!! Thanks for your tips.

Stitchin At Home said...

Go girl go! Your endeavors into the fabric manipulation is exciting and I look forward to reading more posts and of course seeing all your great results.

Sandra Walker said...

Smiling here for and with you. Thank you for sharing all the knowledge you are gaining and for all the recommendations as well. This has been a great series to help someone who, like you used to be, has no idea where to begin. I eagerly await the projects that these grow up into!

Sharon - IN said...

You are going to be having a grand ol' time with all your fabric manipulation! Happy New Year! And, btw, my hubs has that doggie sitting on his dresser pictured in your header.

Kaja said...

Happy New Year, Julie. Sounds like it is going to be an exciting and productive one and I love your summing up. Thanks for the info on dyeing/mark making - now I want to go and play too!

Diana Napier said...

I have to comment about your dog ring holder and kitchen helper at the top of the page. I was given one of these 40 years ago and it was so popular in my family that my sisters now found one, my mother has one and my sister in law has one! I love that thing.