Friday, October 31, 2008

Painted Skies tutorial - whole-cloth painting for art quilts

I love to create art quilts using my own painted fabric - so I thought it would be fun to share one of my methods with you all :-)

As always, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

For this project, you’ll need plain, tightly-woven white cotton fabric (pre-washed, please), a work surface that can get paint-y, a selection of fabric paints and paint brushes. I’d also recommend a spray bottle, clips or tape to attach your fabric to your work surface, and as an option - coarse salt:

Let’s get painting!

To begin, iron your cotton fabric (it’s pre-washed right??) and secure it to your work surface. I prefer to paint on fabric that’s anchored to my work table - I find it’s a lot easier. I’m using big clips to hold my sample fabric down.

Before you start painting, it’s important to have everything prepared and ready to go - you don’t want to go running around your studio trying to find something while your paint is drying on the fabric! I recommend having a good size water container handy to wash your brushes too.

I’m using a combination of Dye-Na-Flo and Lumiere fabric paints for this project. You can use your favorite paints, but these are my preference - I don’t have any commercial interest in them, they just work the way I want :-)

To begin, take your spray bottle and mist the fabric all over - it doesn’t need to be soaked through, but it’s got to be evenly damp for the paint to move the way we want.

I’ve dipped my large, round paint brush (I like Winsor & Newton University synthetic bristle brushes - the white bristle ones) into my water and then into “azure” Dye-Na-Flo. I’m using really light, loose strokes all over the fabric. Don’t try and make obvious cloud shapes, just use light strokes of paint. I’m using heavier strokes at the bottom, moving to lighter ones at the top. That will help give the illusion of depth to the sky.
I’ve mixed a 50/50 blend of azure Dye-Na-Flo and pearlescent turquoise Lumiere, thinned it with water and lightly painted over parts of the blue paint. I like the sheer sparkle of pearl paints, but you’ve got to use them sparingly in this project or they’ll overwhelm it.
I’ve added some light touches of “violet” Dye-Na-Flo. I’ve dipped my paintbrush into water first, and then into the paint - it helps to keep things really light and fluid.

The dark patches you can see in this photo is the worktable surface showing through the white fabric.

It’s important to keep your fabric evenly damp during painting. I photographed this project outside on a hot and windy afternoon, so I needed to spray the fabric down again at this point.

I’m trying to paint a sky at the beginning of sunset, so I’ve a really light layer of yellow streaks, just at the top of the fabric. I’ve used “sun yellow” Dye-Na-Flo. I decided to punch up the metallics a little, so I used a thinned out mixture of Lumiere’s “true gold” to add high lights to the yellow.

I decided that the bottom of the fabric needed a little more color, so I’ve brushed on a second layer of violet. The dark line across the bottom is actually a shadow from my house - not paint.

Spray the fabric again lightly and let it dry thorougly. You could also lightly sprinkle with rock salt at this point. Rock salt will add an interesting texture, just make sure to wash the fabric after you’ve heat set it to remove the salt. It’s not good for fabric to leave it sit for too long!

The fabric has now had a chance to dry overnight, so you can see how much the paint softens as it dries. That’s half of the fun with painting on wet fabric - you never quite now how it will dry! You can now heat-set it according to the instructions on the paint - that will ensure the paint is fully permanent and can be washed safely.

Just to let you know, the finished piece of fabric is over six feet long and approximately eighteen inches wide…

This is why I should remember to wear gloves when I paint - I don’t seem to be able to paint without wearing it :-)
Here's how the fabric looks if you salt it with rock salt when it's still wet:
I love the mottled effect and the added dimension it gives.

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to go from photo to finished fibre art - tutorial

I’ve found that it’s pretty common for people to get completely excited & inspired… and then not know how to go about translating their inspiration to a completed piece of art. Here are a few simple steps to go from an object, to a finished piece of fiber art.

Before we start the tutorial, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

I’m using a small pot of primulas, or primroses as my starting point. I love their rich color and interesting texture. I’ve taken a bunch of photos and decided that this one is my favorite:

But that definitely needs to be cropped! Play around with your photo editing software (there are free ones like The Gimp available if you don’t have any) to find the composition you like the best. This is what I ended up with:
It’s much more interesting now!

I like to create a simple sketch of the composition and layout before I start cutting up fabric or embroidering. It can be tricky to know exactly which lines are important - that’s a pretty detailed photo we’re using after all!

There are a few things that can help - first of all, try blurring the photo:

You can also just squint at the photo - but it’s challenging to try and draw like that :-) Blurring the photo simplifies the image and allows you to see the major shapes in it.

Sometimes it also works to convert the photo to black & white:

Like blurring, removing the color simplifies the photo and can be easier for some people to see the lines, rather than the full, complex photo.

It’s time to start sketching now! The point isn’t to create an exact replica of the photo, but to create a basic outline that you can use to base your fiber art on.

The point of making a basic sketch is to give you a bare-bones idea of the basic shapes you’re using in the piece of fiber art. It doesn’t need to be a “perfect” drawing - but it should give you the composition:Now you’ve got some decisions to make - how is the piece going to be finished? Are you doing a densely-embroidered piece, using machine embroidery? Are you going to create a fibre fusion collage? I’m going to paint onto silk duppioni and then lightly free-motion embroider over the paint as an accent.

You’ll need to transfer the sketch to your base fabric - or, you can just draw it directly onto the fabric:

I’ve used a fine-tipped black permanent marker to draw directly onto my silk (interfaced with a heavy weight fusible interfacing, for stability) If you’re using a light colored fabric, you can use dress-maker’s transfer paper and trace directly from your sketch, onto the fabric . If you’re using a dark colored base fabric, Sulky makes a fantastic white, iron-on transfer pen.

I’m going for a very loose, almost abstract design in this particular piece and I want the pen lines to show through. I’m lightly painting the silk with a very fluid acrylic fabric paint called Dye-Na-Flo, that almost acts like dye when you paint it on (without all the toxic chemicals in dye :-)

I’ve placed the silk on a plastic sheet, so my paint doesn’t seep through and stain anything. The paint has to dry overnight.

Do you know exactly where you want to embroider? Do you want to take the risk of tearing holes in our lovely silk with having to rip stitches out because you’ve decided that you don’t like how it looks?

Photo editing software is our solution!

You can play around with different lines & colors, before you commit to actually embroidering the fabric. I use Photoshop elements a lot to work out different ideas for quilts or fiber art. I don’t have a tablet, so my sketches are pretty rough looking, but they’re enough to get a general idea of how the stitching should work together:

I’ve got an idea of how I want the embroidery to support the composition - it’s time to sew now!

I began with two shades of yellow - both plain old polyester sewing machine thread. I wanted the yellow to be small “pops” of color to make it more interesting - but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

Here’s the first shade of yellow:

I used free-motion embroidery to create short lines radiating out of the flower centers. I filled in the remaining centers with a darker shade - using the same stitching technique.

I threaded my sewing machine with purple next. I wanted the purple to echo the pen lines I drew on first, but I didn’t want to match them exactly. I used quite a loose, fluid line of stitching to give the petals some extra dimension. The dark purple thread blended in a little bit too much with the paint, so I went over some of the lines again with a paler shade of lavender:

I used an olive-toned green to outline the leaves, and to add some depth & volume to the embroidery. It’s getting close, but I still think it needs a little more something…

There was so much green on the piece that it needed to be balanced out. And since red is the complementary color for green - I just needed to add a touch of it. The colors are nicely harmonized now and seem to almost sparkle.

I’m going to display this piece by sewing it onto a stretched canvas (the kind you would paint on) I like to frame smaller art works this way (and have for years now) - it seems to give them more of a “presence”.

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Machine fusion fiber - tutorial, part two

As promised - here's part two of the machine fiber fusion tutorial! You can catch part one here.

Before we get back to the sewing machine, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

It’s time to fill in the little gaps on the fabric and add another layer of color:

I’ve used a cherry red & a darker green to fill in the background. Using different colored sewing machine thread will add depth & richness to the finished piece.

Here’s a close-up of the surface:

You can now dissolve the top layer of stabilizer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions! I find it’s easiest to soak smaller pieces in my bathroom sink.

Make sure you’re using color-fast fabric & threads before this stage:

Place the completely rinsed out fabric face down on a studio towel on your ironing board and cover the back with a second towel or a pressing cloth. We’re trying to dry & flatten the piece of fabric at this stage.

I’d avoid directing touching the surface of the fabric with an iron - some water-soluble stabilizers can leave a film of gunk on on the bottom.
Here's how it looks after being rinsed and pressed:
Trim off all the loose threads from sewing, because we're breaking out the fabric paint!

This is a completely optional step… I don’t always use paint on the fusion fabric - but in this case, I like the effect.

I’m using one of my favorite fabric paints (Lumiere by Jacquard) in halo pink-gold, metallic gold & metallic olive green. I added small lines around some of the stitching & added lines where I felt it needed more definition.

Here's a close-up, so you can see how the paint was applied:

After the paint dries throughly (don’t put tacky or wet paint through your sewing machine - you’ll be very, very unhappy!) we’re going to add some more stitching and finish this piece.
I added lines of metallic stitching around the roses - just to add another dimension of color. Metallic thread can be tricky to work with, so remember to use a metallic embroidery needle, go slowly, loosen your tension slightly and try using a bobbin thread specifically meant for metallic threads.
And we're done! There are some many ways of using this technique - the sky truly is the limit :-)

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder

Machine fusion fiber - tutorial

I love creating layers fabrics using different fibres, fabric and even paint! This is a more in-depth look at a similar technique of mine, that I showed here.

This technique is fantastic for creating art quilts, fibre art or mixed media projects!

As always,
just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

To begin, let's get our supplies in order:
I’ve got 100% cotton fabric, heavy-duty interfacing, water soluable fabric, hand-dyed raw silk & wool, silk floss & yarn trimmings.

For your first step, cut a rough square out of your fabric and fuse the heavy-duty interfacing to the back:

Now for the fun part! Tease the raw silk & wool apart and start laying it on the fabric to form a background. Don’t try and cover too much - part of the this is being able to see a little hint of the fabric peeking through:
I’ve cut out several printed flowers (yes, my stash does tend to look like an enthusiastic moth was in it :-) and placed them on the wool/silk layers:
I’ve gently teased apart some hand-dyed raw silk and placed it over some of the flowers:
This is a fantastic use for little thread or fabric ends. I’m using short little nubbly trimmings from a friend’s loom, lightly sprinkled over the surface:
The next step is to pin a sheet of water soluble film over the layers & pin securely. I’m using a lightweight Sulky product here, but there are lots of different options on the market. Just make sure the film dissolves in water completely - I once spent hours making a sheet of fusion fabric, only to discover that the film I was using was a pull-apart - which was completely hopeless! Before you start sewing, make sure you have a fresh, brand-new needle in your sewing machine. Drop the feed dogs & switch to a free-motion foot.

We’re going to begin by using a neutral colored thread and making an even covering all over the fabric

. Don’t worry about making a meticulous pattern, all you’re doing is anchoring the layers together.

Remember to take the pins out before you sew over them!

Now that there’s an even covering of stitches, you can get to the more decorative stuff! I’m using quite a bright pink thread to “draw” over the fabric rose. Try using brighter colors instead of going for an exact match for this layer of stitching - it will give your work highlights.
It’s still not much to look at right now! Keep going - it will get there!

I think that's enough for one post for now - I'll post the second half of the tutorial later on.

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder

What to do with those little scraps of yarn? Fiber fusion tutorial

I collect yarn because it’s beautiful, or unusual, or because I know it will work for a particular project. But what happens after you’ve made something and you have little pieces of yarn left over? I hate to throw anything away and so needed to come up with a creative way to use those nummy little bits of yarn.

I’m also an art quilter and a mixed media artist, so worked out a way use those little scraps to make free-motion felt.

Before we get to the tutorial, just a gentle reminder - this is an original tutorial, designed and written by myself. It's copyright and may not be copied or transferred without my direct permission.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way - let's get to the fun stuff!

I usually start with a piece of fabric that has heavyweight interfacing fused to the back. You can also use a heavyweight water-soluble stabilizer as well, if you want a lacier finished project. I’ve used a 100% cotton batik print for this project:
I’ve selected a blend of yarns and have pulled them apart to show the detail a little better:

There’s mohair, metallic yarns and a couple different types of novelty yarn in here. The next step is to spread them over the fabric until you like the arrangement. You can also add scraps of fabric, plastic, silk or roving - be creative! As long as it can go through a sewing machine and can be washed - you can use it.

Like how it looks? Good! We now have to pin a lightweight water-soluble stablizer to the top of the fabric/yarn sandwich:

It’s better to use too many pins than too few and have yarn falling out!

Before you begin, drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine and switch to a free-motion foot (if you have one)

I usually use a thread that matches the fabric in the bobbin and a contrast thread for the top. Play around with different colors and see how it changes the look of the piece.

Start stitching in loose circles or squiggles, we’re not trying to be really accurate, just to make sure the yarn is securely attached to the fabric. Pull out the pins as you work across the fabric, it can trash your machine if you sew over a pin! After you’ve covered the fabric uniformly, try using a different color thread. I’ve used three different threads for the sample project, and have used many more depending on the effect I want. You can see how densely the fabric has been covered by stitches, it’s very important to do this, otherwise the yarn will just pull away from the fabric!

The next step is to wash out the water-soluble stabilizer using warm water (it’s not neccessary to use soap) Make sure the stabilizer is completely washed out. Place the fabric face down on a towel and use an iron, set to an appropriate temperature for your yarn & fabric, to dry & flatten the fabric:

Now it's time to embellish! I used a fine ribbon yarn in my bobbin to stitch the large flower, and silk sari yarn for the smaller flowers. The largest flower also has a metallic yarn in the middle of the petals. I couched the sari yarn using a zig-zag stitch:

I’m planning on using this piece on an art quilt, but you can use this same technique for clothes, jewelry, accessories… or anything you want! The sky is the limit for this technique, as long as it can go through a sewing machine and warm water, you can use it.

Here's the finished piece:

tutorial & all images are copyright C Findlay-Harder