Experimenting with fabric paints and inks

30 01 2017

I’m doing a textile art workshop with Sophie Standing at the beginning of March. One of the preparatory things on my list is to transfer the supplied design of a shell on a beach onto some light canvas-like fabric (I’m using ‘duck’ fabric), and optionally add paint effects to the background. To that end, I decided to experiment with various paint effects on the cream and green swatches of the duck fabric I bought.

I thought I’d spatter the paint/ink and perhaps add some water spray to get the effect I wanted. I was looking for sand-like texture for the foreground, and a washed out blue sky for the background. Both of these only need to be hinted at — the shell will be the dominant feature.

Setting up

I started by cutting eight 5″ squares out of each coloured fabric — four for the paint tests and four for the ink tests.

For each medium, I decided to try four different treatments

  • spatter the medium onto the fabric and let it dry
  • spatter the medium, let it dry for 5 minutes, then spray lightly with water
  • spatter the medium, the immediately spray with water
  • spray the fabric to dampen/lightly wet it (NOT soak it), then spatter the medium onto the wet fabric.

The paints I tested were some I had purchased from a Gloria Loughman workshop some years ago and I don’t know their brand — they have no labels. The inks were Tsukineko All-purpose Inks. I used a small hard-bristled brush (less than 1 cm/half an inch wide) that I’d purchased in the paint aisle at the hardware store (this was NOT an artists’ brush!); the reason I chose this brush was that it gave good resistance in the bristles and spattered the paint in fine droplets. Before starting, I filled a jar with water to rinse the brush, put down a big sheet of plastic, and put on food prep gloves to prevent staining my hands. I also had plenty of paper towels on hand in case of any mishaps.

Swatch results — sky

I decided to spatter blue and red/pink paints/inks for these tests. I was going to just do blue, but wanted to see how the colours would or wouldn’t bleed into each other so I chose a contrasting red/pink to see what would happen. As you can see from the results, adding water (or not) at various stages definitely changes what happens to the paints/inks. I much preferred how the colours rendered on the cream fabric than the green, where they became quite muddy and subdued. After these tests, I decided on the ‘water spray then ink’ technique (but just in blues!) for the main design to emulate a washed out sky.

(click on a photo to see it larger)






Swatch results — sand

I decided to spatter yellow, red, and purple paints, and brown, orange, and yellow inks for these tests. Again, adding water (or not) definitely changes what happens to the paints/inks. And again, I preferred how the colours rendered on the cream fabric than the green, where they were quite muddy and subdued. After these tests, I decided to use the ‘ink only’ technique for the main design to emulate the sand (but just in brown and yellow as I thought the orange was a bit overpowering).

(click on a photo to see it larger)



Main piece

After deciding on the ‘ink only’ spatter technique for the sand part of the main design, I used baking (parchment) paper and painters’ tape to mask off the upper part of the big piece of fabric I had transferred the main design onto. All well and good, and the paint spattered beautifully (except for a big drop of yellow that fell off the brush! I decided not to try to get it out, instead choosing to wait until I’d finished before figuring out how I’d disguise it…).


Once this lower half had dried (which was almost immediately), I put the baking paper over it and tightly taped down along the horizon edge with painters’ tape. Then I lightly sprayed the top section with water and spattered two different blues over it. I liked the effect, but again, two BIG dollops of blue dropped off the paintbrush onto the main design and spoilt it beyond repair (yes, I’ll have to start again). After ruining the piece with these drops, I waited for it to dry to see how well the masking off worked. Well, it didn’t!

Duck fabric has quite a coarse weave, so the water ignored the painters’ tape and wicked into the lower half of the design, and the blue ink happily followed it down!


The piece was now completely ruined, but I figured I’d use it for some more experiments. The big issue was how to prevent water wicking/bleeding into areas where I didn’t it to go. Hmmm… what to do? I don’t do fabric dying, so I don’t have any resist mediums (not that I think they’d have worked with this coarse weave anyway). Instead, I decided I’d try two things I did have — a watercolour masking fluid (Frisket), and Elmer’s School Glue. I placed a bead of each on the fabric, waited for them to dry thoroughly, then wet one side of each bead with the water spray and added a bit of ink. And then I waited to see what would happen… Fail!

This first photo is of the watercolour masking fluid — the colour was added BELOW the white masking line in this photo but has totally ignored the ‘barrier’ and bled into the non-wet area. If you look closely, you can see the line of moisture near the top of the photo showing just how far the water wicked past the ‘barrier’, even though the colour didn’t go that far.


This second photo is the result with the Elmer’s School Glue. Again,  only the area below the glue line was sprayed with water and colour added to it. And again, it has bled extensively into the non-wet area.



Just using these techniques above (i.e. not buying and testing a fabric resist medium), I came to these conclusions:

  • If you’re going to use different techniques (e.g. one with water and one without), then make sure you test BOTH techniques on a SINGLE test swatch BEFORE applying them to the main design!
  • Unless you’re using some sort of resist medium that you KNOW works, don’t mix water and non-water techniques on fabrics that will suck up water where you don’t want it to go. There be dragons!

For my next attempt (after I purchase yet another metre of duck fabric and transfer the design), I think I’ll use the ink only technique for both the sand and sky sections, masking each off as I do them. And I’ll apply NO water at all. The backgrounds can all be little spattered dots of colour, and that will have to do.

Two aqua quilts finished

30 01 2017

I’ve finished the two quilts I started at the retreat in early January. I had to buy some wide aqua backing fabric, which is what held me up.

Here they are, finished. Both are for sale in my Etsy store (http://www.etsy.com/au/listing/495202354/sun-and-sea-lap-quilt and http://www.etsy.com/au/listing/508684609/aqua-single-bed-quilt).

Click on an image to view it larger.

Aqua single-bed quilt






Threads used:

  • Top: Isacord (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour FB 4010)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (white)

Sun and Sea lap quilt






Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Glide ‘Marigold’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 80130); Fil-Tec Glisten ‘Gold’ (metallic, colour 60088); Superior Rainbows ‘Mediterranean’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 831)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (white)

Weekend away just quilting

9 01 2017

I spent this past weekend at the lovely Avalon Homestead in Toodyay. But not by myself — I spent it with six other quilting friends. It wasn’t a formal retreat — just a catch-up with friends over our sewing machines. It was so nice to just sit and sew all day, have our meals prepared for us, and then do it all again the next day. Most of us started around 6am and didn’t finish until around 10pm. Just bliss! And the room we were in was just perfect for any sort of crafts. Oh, and there were goats, including two babies!

I made three quilts for my niece (details and photos later after I give them to her), plus an improvisational single bed quilt top made from scraps, and a lap quilt top.

Some photos of the quilt tops in progress (they aren’t quilted yet!) and the location…











Twelve months after the Yarloop fires

9 01 2017

A year to the day that Yarloop was all but destroyed by one of the worst bushfires in Western Australian (European) history, I travelled to Perth along Forrest Highway, which the fire had jumped on its path of destruction to the coast. The bush is recovering slowly, with many weed species taking hold. The grass trees have sent up many spears (stimulated by the fire?), though not all are straight — many are very twisted. I don’t know if the twisting is natural or a result of the trauma to the plants by the fires. Many other trees/bushes are dead and will eventually fall over/drop branhces, or be taken over by other vegetation.

Some photos while driving to and from Perth this past weekend — the first photo is of the bush alongside the highway in an area not burnt (this is what it used to look like before the fires):










Update: Photos from 31 March 2018, some two years and nearly 3 months after the Yarloop fires. These were taken on Forrest Highway in one of the areas the fire burnt through. The recovery of many of the trees is quite remarkable. Some are just dead, but many have recovered. Sometime in the past few months, the Main Roads people have also trimmed away any dead branches on the verges that were likely to break off and potentially become a road hazard.

Update: 4 September 2018: Two years, 8 months since the Yarloop fires… Springtime and the amazing regenerative nature of the Australian bush after devastating and catastrophic fire just stuns me. Some photos from my drive back from Perth today. While there are still a lot of dead and burnt branches, the understorey seems to have fully recovered and is thick with new life. Many of the burnt trees seem to have recovered too, and are covered in leaf growth.

See also:

Yellow hibiscus

4 01 2017

When I was in Houston last November for the International Quilt Festival, I took lots of classes, mostly related to art quilts. One was a full-day class with Melinda Bula, whose work I’ve admired for a long time, especially after I saw it up close and personal when she taught at Empty Spools Asilomar in February 2014. At Asilomar I took Pam Holland’s 5-day class (no regrets about doing that!), but it was a toss-up between Pam’s class, Melinda’s class, and Susan Carlson’s class — all great teachers, all techniques I wanted to learn, but all on the same week!

So when I saw that Melinda was teaching a one-day class at Houston, I jumped at the chance and was lucky enough to get a spot in her ‘Fabulous Fusible Flowers: Hibiscus’ class. I made good progress on my piece, and finished it off at home by the end of November, except for the binding, hanging sleeve, and label. Well, now it’s all done!

I did some fairly heavy ‘thread painting’ on it, but left some of the yellow areas to ‘pop’ — just like the ridges on a real hibiscus flower. For the pollen heads, I couched some fuzzy yellow yarn, then lightly touched the tops of them with a red Copic marker. The patterns and all fabrics for the flower and the stem were from the kit Melinda supplied for the class (each person chose a different coloured kit for their hibiscus — I chose the yellow, though I could have chosen pink or purple). I supplied the background fabric and the green fabrics for the leaves. And yes, there are HUNDREDS of pieces of fabric fused in the petals…

I’ll put this piece into a couple of competitions/exhibitions, then I’ll make it available for sale. The size is 80 cm wide (31.5 inches) by 65 cm high (25.5 inches).

This art quilt is now available for sale from my Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/618945129/yellow-hibiscus-art-quilt

(Click on a photo to view it larger)











Stop foot pedal scooting across the floor

1 01 2017

I have lovely hardwood floors in my house. But they are a darned nuisance for my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen’s foot pedal — it wants to slip further and further away from me as I put pressure on it. I tried putting that non-slip stuff underneath it (you know — that slightly tacky plastic mesh stuff you put under rugs or in drawers to stop things sliding around). It worked to a point, but eventually the foot pedal would creep away. I needed to come up with a better solution…

On one of the forums, someone had suggested putting Velcro dots under the foot pedal if you’re on carpet. Well, my machine isn’t on carpet, but that got me thinking… Perhaps Velcro dots would work with something else that doesn’t slip on wooden floors? Hmmmm….

Something like an old neoprene mouse mat, perhaps? That’s neoprene on the top and bottom, not the newer mouse mats that have a slippery top surface.

So I tried it, and I’m here to report that with the combination of Velcro dots on the feet on the foot pedal AND a neoprene mouse mat, my foot pedal no longer slides or creeps away from me. I call that a win!

I haven’t tried this on tile, but I expect it would work similarly – worth a try, anyway.

Velcro dots stuck to the base of the foot controller

Velcro dots stuck to the base of the foot controller

Foot controller with Velcro feet sticks to the neoprene mat, which sticks to the wooden floor

Foot controller with Velcro feet sticks to the neoprene mat, which sticks to the wooden floor

Community Quilt 305

1 01 2017

This small, colourful, and very geometric quilt needed something to soften the hard edges, so I quilted it using the curvaceous open headband motif in a bright yellow thread.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Glide ‘Mango’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 80116)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 304

1 01 2017

Another big quilt made with ‘busy’ fabrics. To quilt it, I stitched in the ditch around all the elements in the blocks, then did cathedral windows in the small 2″-square internal borders. I did a large meandering stipple in the main border.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Harmony ‘Driftwood’ (40 wt, cotton, colour 14069)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 303

1 01 2017

How to quilt this scrappy quilt made with very ‘busy’ fabrics? I decided on a simple cathedral window motif for each of the squares in the main part of the quilt and the border, using a variegated green and yellow thread.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Superior ‘Nile Crocodile’ (40 wt, cotton, colour 943)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 302

1 01 2017

This was a really big quilt. How to quilt it? I decided on an all-over motif, a variation of open headbands, with ‘petals’ to emulate flowers. I used a purple, yellow, and cream variegated thread, which seemed to work well with the pinky-mauve main colour in this quilt.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)





Threads used:

  • Top: Wonderfil Mirage (30 wt, rayon, colour SD 32)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)