susie’s xmas present

since she doesn’t read my blogs, she won’t notice before xmas, so i’m safe in putting it up now.

when we were at the beach this summer, my sister got me to make her a sea turtles crawling out to sea t-shirt. so when jim designed me a sea turtle scarf this fall, i figured i just might as well make an extra one because susie was going to want it. so.

it’s a design that uses a lot of wavy waves, and a lot of sandy sand, with seashells and sea turtles on the shore and marching out to sea. not the seashells, marching. so i was going to get to use my favoriet technique – karo syrup resist – and i was going to have to figure out how to do sand.

fotunately, i had on hand a jar of presist, which is some sort of paste resist (tastes like boiled detergent, but they never tell you what’s in these things) that i had never tried. so.

i got out a sea sponge, and put down a layer of resist, sponging it on haphazardly all over the sand area. at the same time, i put in my water resist lines, very gloopy sugar syrup that i then let dry. when the syrup was down, i started putting in various blues for the water, and left a strip of white to represent the shoreline foam.

 after dousing the sand with water

over the presist, i put in a golden yellow with a brush, trying to avoid the resist where possible. i didn’t yet understand the properties of this resist, and found that it was very reactive with water, which means that it wouldn’t hold at all if i brushed dye over it. but after the stuff was dry i couldn’t tell where the resist was, so oh well.

i sponged resist onto it on top of the first resist and the first dye, and when it was dry i put a deeper brown color over the first bits. when that was dry, i sponged on the resist again, and put purple bits on. it looked very cool, but more like a pebble beach than a sandy one, and sea turtles, i’m sorry, don’t like to make their nests in rock. so.

 running dye

then i turned my attention to the turtles and the shells. they’d been outlined in regular water-based resist (rice paste???), and i painted the turtles green, and the shells red, with various water color type treatments.

 ain’t it beautiful, suze?

and then i put water all over the water, violating the resist lines. this had the effect of dissolving the sugar syrup, and the dye moved in tendrils and swirls into new areas, making a wonderful loose mess of color. that’s why i love this technique.

 look how the dye bleeds across the sugar resist

over the sand, i washed clear water, hoping to move the resist in a similar way. it didn’t do anything like the sugar syrup did when i put water on it, but instead washed everything into soft blended color. it kind of washed the color out, actually, but since i was aiming for a sand look, that was alright. for the four scarves i did for sale, my sand goes thru several different versions, depending on how bold i was being with both resist and color, and by the time i got to my sister’s scarf, i was about at my limit for going outside the lines.

once i had the scarf steamed and saw how it all came out, i wondered what i should do with it next. my sister isn’t the type to actually wear my scarves. she hangs them instead. so i figured why not make a backing for it and give her a wall hanging. so.

 mostly finished

i was over in marietta a while later, showing a friend this great quiting fabric store, and ran across a batik of sea turtles. it was in lime green, which i detest, but i figured i could overdye it and make it more green-blue. but i overdid the overdyeing, and it came out bluish black. so i tosseed it in the wash and cycled it thru three or five hot water washes, and it faded out enough to where you could actually see the sea turtles. so that was okay.

 batik backing, note the green turtles. the original fabric was yucky lime green. the outlines are quilting of objects in the scarf.

i had to cut and piece the batik, and i had just enough flannel to cut out the batting, so i sandwiched the thing together and started sewing. i was undecided whether to quilt the waves, and in the end i just quilted the turtles and the shells and left it at that.

now i have to figure out when i can mail it so that she’ll get it for xmas. if i sent it to her now, or in early november, she’ll just open it, and the xmas present part will be ruined. if i send it to her husband, he’ll put it aside and leave it at work. timing is everything.

 finished wall hanging with turtles and shells quilted

and to my other sister, who does read my blogs — lise, i’ve still got to fix something about the way your wall hanging hangs, and then it’ll be on the slow boat to you. and i must tell you, allison doesn’t think it’s very good at all, but susie loves it.


some of my silk scarves this year

every year i make a batch or two of scarves, with dyes on silk. they’re habotai scarves, 11×60, and i sell them around atlanta, and give them away as xmas presents.

i’ve been painting on silk since 2003, and my designs have gotten progressively more colorful. they’ve never been precise, i’m more interested in the happy accident and the leakage of color than i am with straight lines and other boundaries.

this year, to an unprecedented extent, my husband jim is designing most of my fall line (i almost need to put quotes around that). he started out several years ago designing a dragon scarf, and then a snake one, and then i had him do me a dragon for a kimono, and a stream and crane for another kimono, and now i’ve got him drawing fairies and toadstools, and fish and seaweed, and sea turtles in the ocean. and he’s just asked me to cut 4 more templates so he can do designs he hasn’t even thought up yet. (paisley)

i’m making the scarves in batches of four each design. i’m saving the templates. each set is more wonderful than the last. he’s drawn me some real works of art, and these will be my top of the line scarves.

he’ll help me with the wall hangings when i get around to making them.

so here are some of my new fall collection. i’m still in production; i bring the week’s output into my class on thursdays, and i’d like to enthuse about how i got some effect but they’re still grasping the basics so i’ll try to tone it down.

but how can you not be enthusiastic about designs like these?

these are this year’s dragon design. i use karo syrup resist for the scales and spines, and salt in the background.

this is fish floating around among seaweed fronds.

these are portraits of a pair of russian blues that i originally did as a present for my friend gretchen, their mom.

detail. they adopted a stuffed floppy dog to sleep on, showing the natural domination of species.

but wait. there’s more. i haven’t taken pictures yet but each one is more beautiful than the last.

Thoughts on quilting a picture

some research:

i just ran across this wordpress blog about quilting.

and here’s another wordpress fabric blog

there’s also the quiltart mailing list

making a mark blog, getting famous now

about quilting by templates

about landscape quilts

here’s a rag quilt, something i should think about. unfinished seam allowances, oooh.

here is a real artist making quilts, beautiful

i’ve just joined a fabric webring, which i’ve never done before. loads of networking going on.

Surface Design
Power By Ringsurf

i’m researching how to do the actual quilting of the thing i’m contemplating. do i piece it together, do i applique it? what is appliquilting? do i have to zigzag them together? i’ve never used a zigzag stitch, and it scares me somehow.

i read a book about landscape quilting that had you sewing long rectangles in varying widths together to get a strip effect that you then pretty much cut into shape and sewed to some other piece of stripped fabric. it sounded like too much work.

i want to just rip this fabric into sthreds – which let me tell you, after however long iof mildew i can’t get out by washing in cole water with vinegar – and use the shreds somehow fastened down to a backing.

jim, of course, says glue it all down to some hard surface with gel medium and call it wall art. i still want it to be on the bed. but if i can’t get it to stop smelling, it’s going to have to be sealed.

i want to know how others have done it, and then do something different. i want to get all experimentl with it. however, it’s ripe-rotten old clothes and scraps of fabric. how much do i expect to do with it?

i’m thinking in my fantasies, that i want to put these different pieces of cloth in the blender and rag them all up, then use the different colors somehow like a slurry of paint, pouring it down onto some support material and fusing it to itself and the support. kind of like felting but also kind of like watercolor. would i use gum arabic as the medium? acrylic medium? some sort of polymer to soak the thing in, maybe heatset somehow? can i imagine a sheet of canvas with fabric lumps somehow glued to its surface but remaining pliable? i can see it!

again i wish i knew the chemistry.

Using pigments as dyes, treating canvas and paper like cloth

i was in utrecht and came across a booklet called painstiks on fabric, which is close to what i’m thinking i need to do with my paintings.

they use shiva (or markal) paintstik oil sticks on fabric, then heat set them.

the problem with this methdo of putting pigment on fabric is that there’s linseed oil – a drying oil – saturating the cloth, and over time the acids in the oil will rot the fabricand ruin the art.

i read something in one of those links above, saying that since this particular brand of paintstick is linseed oil and wax, and because the linseed oil is specially treated to be less acidic (by what process?), and because it dries on the fabric so quickly and is heatset – thus polymerized, dried, plasticized so quickly after being painted on, it has spent relatively little time being oily, and the remnant gets washed out after it’s set, and so it should be okay even tho the company hasn’t done aging tests on the effects. but it should be okay.

anyway, i haven’t tried it yet, and will, but i’m thinking oil isn’t the right binder for puting pigments on fabric. i’m thinking soda ash for cotton, and vinegar for silk. i’m thinking fiber reactive dyes.

i wish i knew the science.

see, i’ve had this idea for awhile now, and it’s been festering, teh way a painting might sit in teh back of our mind for a couple of years befoer you get around to making marks and finishing a painting.

altho i’m still thinking like a 2-dimensional painter on paper or canvas, i’m working like a fabric designer and sewing room monster.

you should see my new sheet set. wait here, i’ll go get a picture.

Project: bellydancing veil of helix nebula

i have taken practically forever to get around to a project i’m doing for a friend. sorry, asha.

asha is a belly-dancer of great renown. i recently offered to paint her a veil to dance with, and she immediately came back with the eye-of-god nebula, aka the helix nebula ngc7293 .

a silk veil. hmmm. now that i’ve finally gotten round to it, i am somewhat daunted.

i’m going to be working on a piece of silk that’s 4 ft x 9 ft.

the stretching and painting logistics give me the shakes. and how am i going to put a vast area of black dye down without horrible streaking and edging? we’re talking about 3+ square yards here – and putting the dye on all at once. jim’s solution (mask off the nebula and use a spray bottle full of black dye) – brilliant.

to begin wih, i don’t know how to do a nebula in silk paint. i don’t know what characteristics make something a nebula instead of a supernova, say. so i went to the hubble site and had a look at their gallery.

i have a glimmer of a clue how i’m going to execute this on silk with dyes. the only place i’m going to use regular water-based gutta is for the fixed stars. so i go thru and put dots of various sizes all over an 11×60 habotai scarf. my supplier is dharma. if i was being really realistic, i would first paint some red or blue or yellow and let it dry before dotting the area with gutta. then we’d get colored stars.

i’m going to use sugar syrup resist for the nebula. the places where it’s white i’ll draw onto the white and smudge or water down. the places where the nebula is reddish i’ll paint first with an orange and then lay down the karo.

and i’ll use salt for both the star field and for litle varations within the nebula.

the rest is a matter of figuring out how to get what effects, and how to end up with the right colors.

so i’ve done a dozen or so nebula scarves in the past week or so, as many as my poor tired back wil let me.

step one is to draw the nebula. these pictures were taken in my studio and show little bitty dots of water-based gutta for stars, and great jaggy circles of karo sugar syrup for the nebula

i’ve come back in with a brush full of water to smudge out those syrup lines.. the gray is really just watery syrup, and the dark is fully concentrated syrup. the sugar lines willl dry in hours to a shiny, soft clear, and the scarf will rustle like paper.

the inner circle resist is on the white sillk. the outer circle is on top of a yellow-orange swath of dye i’ve just put down. this way, the outer circle will be yellowish, and the inner ones will be white, because the syrup covers and resists application of dye. and when you add dye or clear water, you’re breaking thru the line of syrup, so the dyes will flow and etch in wonderful ways.

here is the scarf being worked on in the studio. i’m afraid the image has been reversed. i haven’t yet finished messing with the nebula colors.. they’re still mostly damp.

the tail ends of most of the scarves have the milky way on them, done in salt. it looks a lot more impressive with the salt than with the effect.

detail of the milky way. i’ve put the black on all at once, using a huge sponge brush. then blue and red got charged in there, and then salt sprinkled on for background stars. i stuck a bunch of salt in a double line where the milky way runs.

the salt is supposed to draw the color, leaving streaks and dark bits. when you use enough salt to melt a slug with black dye you get gray streaks and very faint darks. i want more than that, so i’m going to have to rethink.

this is two scarves ready for steaming. the top picture is the same scarf as we’ve been talking about, but turned over.

here is one, finished, yet still to be steam set. the syrupy areas are where there’s a certain graying of color – the yelow grayness in the southeast quadant right inside he red. that’s syrup, and the dyes will likely wash out when it’s set and rinsed.

i’ve put down dyes – mostly the primaries: lemon yelow, cyan, magenta. except that the magenta is way too cool so it’s been thoroughly fired up with loads of yellow aleady. i put down the dyes and then add clear water, making sure to violate the resist lines whenever possible. then i sprinkled salt on the darker nebula bits.

you can see where the blue has cut right thru the gray sugar resist line, especially at the top. but don’t these complete accidents just make the whole nebula effect? the happy accident. i’m always preaching this to students.

here is another first step, on a different scarf. you can’t see any flo of dye with the syrup because i put the dye on first. you can see a little flow of syrup out into the wet dyed area, tho.

this is the same scarf after dyeing. (but before steaming. it’ll look different when it’s been fixed and washed) i like the little blobs, but maybe in not so much of a pattern. i’ve seen similar little blogs in nebula clouds. i also really like what the salt has done to the outsie edges.

this was with a lot of salt, and a lot of flooding of the resist lines with water.

detail of the preceding scarf (a little fuzzy).

Pair of matching silk wedding kimono


jim. makes anything look good.

work area

part of my vast sewing empire.

three silk kimono

3 kimono finally finished. it always takes twice as long.

dragon kimono

if it fits me, it will fit her.

dragon and water scarves

jim’s designs are so nice i started making scarves with them.

sudie, cavalier king charles spaniel

sudie is my little king charles spaniel.

tumbles, maltese

tumbles is my kid allison’s maltese.

smudge and schuyler, cats

smudge and schuyler don’t think i make a mess.

3 kimono

a good cast is best repeated.


by the way, i took some handmade paper and made wrapping paper she can iron out if she wants, and get framed.

pastel scarf and kimono dragons

the dragon in silk kimono, silk scarf, and pastel on paper.

scarf kimono

ensemble suggestion: use scarf as obi.

pastel scarf and kimono water

the stream and crane in pastel on paper, silk scarf, and silk kimono.

pastel water

crane and stream, pastel on paper.