Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 9 - Dyeing

College was a messy affair this week as we started to learn about dyeing fabrics. We began with Transfer or Disperse Dyes. These were either liquid, like ink, or solid, like a wax crayon, and had to be applied to very thin Layout Paper. We were shown a few ideas and then let loose!

Here, I scrunched the paper and then splashed on the liquid dyes and let them mix.
Here I painted on a more controlled pattern and then splashed on yellow. The colour of the dyes on the paper is much more muted than the final colour.
Here I painted on a photocopy in the hope that the black photocopy ink would provide a resist to the dye and appear white on the fabric.

The liquid dyes have to be fully dry before you can transfer them to the fabric.
Rubbings of leaves with hand drawn leaves round the edge. This was done with the wax crayon type of dye.
Finally, more rubbings of outdoor surfaces at the college - treadplate, concrete slab, fence post, brick wall etc. This piece is ripped randomly ready for the next stage.

The dye is transferred to the fabric by using a very hot iron. These kinds of dyes only work on synthetic fabrics, like polycotton or net curtain. All fabrics for dyeing have to be machine washed and ironed before use, so you know what I was doing last weekend!
So here are the results after transfer onto fabric. The colours are much brighter. You can iron the image more than once, until the dye is spent. I thought that the blue and red stripy one was a bit boring after transfer so I ripped it up and re-ironed it and it became much more interesting.

It was hard to keep the paper stationary as you ironed it as you had to press hard and keep the iron moving so that you don't get blank 'steam holes'.
Here is the surface rubbings one on a sheer fabric so the colours are not as strong. The pieces were moved and re-ironed many times to make a kind of patchwork image - wish I had chosen better colours!
Next we moved onto Procion dyes which only work on natural fabrics. The fabric has to be wetted with a mordant, which helps the dye bind chemically to the fibres of the fabric. We used salt water and a solution of soda ash as our mordants - a couple of tablespoons of each on each piece of fabric. We then squirted in the liquid dye - a different colour on each end and let them mix naturally. All this took place in a plastic bag so we couldn't really control the final effect. These were left for 24 hours for the dye to fix before rinsing out with cold water and washing in hot.
Here are the results. I dyed muslin and calico samples. I think because the muslin is thinner I could get more folds and creases in the fabric and so more marbling.
Finally we were shown a method of colouring fabric without the need for specialist dyes using acrylic paint. We mixed cyan, yellow and magenta paint 50:50 with water and then painted them onto the fabric without the colours touching. By folding and rolling the fabric the colours mix where they touch. It is then hung up to dry before ironing (top two brighter pieces).
Your table is now covered with acrylic paint so we used a second piece of fabric to mop up the excess, producing the paler pieces at the bottom.
On Friday I went with a couple of ladies from my college course to see 2 exhibitions locally. The first was Material World at the Hillier Gardens, an exhibition of textile art. We were allowed to take photos so here are my favourites.
by Lorna Abel

by Lorna Abel

Sunset by Cindy Rose
by Maureen Evans

Summer Diagonal Paper Fusion

Cushion centre

I love the use of maps on this
Calm Waters by Lorna Abel
I bought this handbag decoration because I love the shape and I am always interested in how things like this are made to see if I could make one myself. The flower appears to be stiff silk but I don't know how it has been treated to stop fraying. The centre is a mother of pearl 'bead'.
I wanted to buy one of these vintage button brooches but in the end decided I could make one as they were £12 each!

Then we went on to an exhibition at Mottisfont Abbey called Cutting Edge. This focuses on different uses of paper. We were privileged to see works by Rob Ryan, who cuts the most intricate details out of whole sheets of paper, but no photographs were allowed. See his work on his blog.

I did photograph this amazing piece by local artist Eileen White.

At the weekend I submitted some designs for the Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum christmas card. I cut an image of their logo out of black card and added stars in the sky. I experimented with different backing papers - here are just a few of the many. I'll update the blog when we finally choose one.

Finally I got round to buying a frame and doing something with some beautiful hand printed gift tags by Sarah Hough I bought on the Salisbury Art Trail in October. I have simply mounted them on a piece of linen. As ever, my favourite one is the cow parsley/allium head type one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 8 - Brusho Collage, Cords and Tassels

At college this week we started by using different types of neutral papers to make a collage. We weren't sure what we were going to do with them next so we all did something completely different. Mine, as you can see, has a sort of exotic flower thing going on.

We were then asked to cut it up into 8 rectangles! (I don't like cutting up my own work.)
We were given pots of made-up Brusho. Brusho is a very concentrated powered pigment ink - see photo - which you mix with water to make a wash.

Our tutor asked us to colour pieces of our collage in certain ways:

  • 3 analogous colours i.e next to each other on the colour wheel
  • Complementary colours i.e opposite on the colour wheel
  • Monochromatic i.e a tints of a single colour
  • Achromatic i.e. no colour or grayscale
  • Any colours we liked on the remaining pieces
As the collage was made of different types of paper, the way they took up the colour was different according to their absorbency, producing these pretty but unpredictable effects. You can also sprinkle the neat Brusho powder onto the wet page to give the heavy mottling.
This was fun so I had another go at home, focussing on Christmas shapes. Top left has added glitter and bottom left and centre have some gold added using a product called 'Goldfinger'! This is a thick paste that you rub on to highlight the texture in certain areas. I'm not sure any of them will make it to Christmas cards but I had a good time doing it.

The second part of our class was on making cords and tassels. The cords are made by twisting long lengths of threads till they start buckling in the middle and then 'folding' in half to let the cord twist itself together. I had done these before as a kid. 

I first tried an experimental one with strips of white and black bin liner to go with my line book. It is ok, but not particularly neat.

I then tried a more conventional one with different types and shades of threads, which is very nice.
Next the tassels. These are made on a cardboard former that we cut out of mount board. The length of the tassel is varied by the length of the former. Just wind the thread round the 'arms', tie at the top, tie at the 'neck' and slide off. Then the loops are the bottom are cut.

Usually you will not cut the 'skirt' of the tassel perfectly level and sometimes the thread is kinked from the way it was stored so we were shown how you can straighten out silk in the steam of a kettle and a neat trick to trim the 'skirt' evenly.
This is how my silk ones came out. The left hand one is made out of recycled sari silk and the right hand one out of very fine chinese silk.

Although the method for making tassels is easy, they are surprisingly fiddly and so I am really pleased with how the finished ones look.
Finally I tried one on my black and white line book theme, made out of funky wool. As is it not silk, the kettle steam will ruin it so I will forever look like a baby bird that the cat has got hold of!

At the weekend I went to the opening of a textile art show put on by Zero Nine Textile Artists, to which our classroom assistant belongs. The show is called 'Threads Across Time' and is on until 22nd Dec at Andover Museum. Some of the work was inspired by the Iron Age exhibits there.

Here are a few of my favourites. The first piece is by Alison Hulme, our classroom assistant, who used red Brusho described above to imply blood/poppy petals beautifully. I'm afraid I didn't note down the names of all the other artists and some of the photos are not square on due to the gallery space and other visitors. 

Piece by Alison Hulme

Batik fabric crab

Morning Glory

Inspired by the Iron Age exhibits - multiple layers stitched in patterns and then the top layers slashed

Close up of above

Part of a series of recycled envelopes with images stuck in the windows and the rest of the image sketched in with machine embroidery - very clever
Poppies on machine embroidery 'field'

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 7 - Free Machining

Our first activity at College this week was to make a colour wheel. We had all brought in objects of a particular colour and then arranged them into the wheel. I took in 2 colours  - yellow and purple - as there are only 5 of us on the course and 6 colours in the wheel. We photographed the wheel to use later.

Then we got our sewing machines out and set them up for free machine embroidery. This is where you attach a small flat foot and lower the 'feed dogs' (the teeth that usually feed the material through your machine automatically). This allows you to move your material through the machine in any direction you want, effectively 'drawing' with your needle and creating patterns and effects that would be impossible any other way.
We were given a sheet of patterns to try and copy, including writing our name. You have to have your material stretched in a hoop, which is why mine has a strange shape. Incidentally, I have not gone colour blind - we were advised to choose our strongest threads as they frequently break.

Finally we stitched a circle a few times and then cut out the middle. We then stitched backwards and forwards across the circle - the machines really complained about stitching over thin air! However at the end you can cut out the stitched centre and you have created an interesting flower decoration, or in my case a kind of squashed spider - see orange and purple blobs on my sample!

Using our new skills we then created a colourful piece. Starting with unpromising blue felt, we ironed on Angelina (very thin strips of iridescent fusible plastic) and other snips of fabric and thread. A top layer of sheer fabric sandwiches it all together and then we did free machine patterns to hold it all in place.

As you can see I went very bright on mine, with free machining based on triangles in a variegated thread, augmented with free machine zig-zag blobs in red and blue. Finally I free machined triangles in orange and green and cut out the centres. This was a desperate attempt to make the piece look interesting - it looks much better in these photos than in real-life!

I have done some more work on my Line book pages. The page on 'emotive lines' (right) was quick and easy but the one for 'Overlaid' lines (below) took a lot of agonising. I originally wanted to do a design in strips of tissue paper based on tartan, where the colours change at the intersections, but this didn't work. So I ended up with a simpler, more abstract version, with my additional source images as a border round the edge.

I have now decided to run strips of white and black bin-liner through holes throughout the whole length of the book. This took ages as I had to punch out over 140 holes by hand!
Just the front cover to complete now. It has taken ages because it has been like creating 6 new works of art but I have really enjoyed doing it.

Finally, it was the birthday of my friend's daughter at the weekend and I only remembered at the last minute so I made myself make a card in 10 minutes flat so that I would catch the post! I hope it was well-received.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 6 - Zig-Zag Book and Pumpkins

Bursledon Brickworks Pumpkin
This week started with Halloween crafts. I agreed to carve some pumpkins for the Bursledon Brickworks Museum Open Day (a charity for which I volunteer). Instead of just doing the usual ghoulish face I decided to see if I could do the Museum's logo - here is the result. This photo was kindly taken by Mark J Pearce, the official photographer on the day. Based on this, the management team have asked me to design their Christmas Card this year!
Last weekend I got busy with the sewing machine and made a pouch to hold my laptop cables as my new fancy padded slimline case doesn't have a place for them.
Finally at college last week we made a zig-zag book in which to mount all our line design work. This book was simple to make - take an A1 sheet of card, cut it in half lengthways, join the 2 strips together to make a long strip and fold into a zig-zag.

The City and Guilds syllabus requires us to demonstrate an understanding of the following types of line and present design work illustrating all of them:

  • Fat and thin lines
  • Angular
  • Curvilinear

  • Cross-hatching
  • Overlaid
  • Lines evoking mood in wet and dry media
Thus the task is to present our line design work, together with photos, magazine pictures, pictures by other artists etc in an interesting and creative way.
As we can literally do anything, the challenge is to come up with a meaningful and inspiring format. This is a big task, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed so far.

It is not finished yet but the photos on the right provide a preview - hopefully you can work out which page is which!

Our design work moves onto colour next week - I can't wait!