Friday, July 1, 2016

A boring quilt top re-imagined

Hi everyone, I'm Laura McGrath, and I was one of the original artists on this blog way back in 2010. I'm doing a few posts this month, on a few random topics that are totally unrelated. I'm one of those surface design people who likes to try everything, but it doesn't always work out the way I'd hoped (or planned)...

Here is my first topic--This quilt top was one I sewed together many years ago, and has been in my UFO pile forever. It's about twin bed size, and just very "blah".

I decided to spice it up a bit, so I got out this Cleanline Resist that I bought a while ago and never used, and painted some of the resist on some new screen printing screens I had made up. 

This product is about the consistency of acrylic paint, yet is water soluble, so it will eventually come off the screens.

I mixed up some Procion dyes and sodium alginate thickener to pull through the screens.

I like how the original patterns of the fabric still shows through.

The screens were good for about 6-7 pulls each before the design disintegrated

I think I used Mixing Blue, Sage, and Bronze dye colors, but I didn't write them down so I'm not 100% sure of that.

I had to pull out a few of my other screens to finish since the quilt top was so big!

So here it is after washing, it looks a little different now, doesn't it?

I liked it, but wanted to do more.  Since I had no emotional attachment to this piece (meaning I don't care if I really mess it up) I decided to do some more. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Finishing and using eco-printed fabrics

Janine here...

After the cooking is done, and eco-printed fabrics have been allowed to rest, then dried, then gently laundered and dried again, and then ironed... what to do with the stash?

Below are the fabrics printed during a two day intensive workshop - yikes!

Some printed pieces can benefit from added colour. For example, the piece below was printed with Japanese maple, then rusted a little. I think that the rust colour is a good complement for the purple-grey.

Ready-made silk scarfs can be purchased on-line, or printed from silk or wool scarfs from thrift stores. These made great gifts and often sell well.  Here's an example of a lovely complex print on a light silk scarf.

Although I love the results of eco-printing, I'm still learning about how to use them in finished pieces.  I hope that, if you are following this blog, you'll send along your ideas for finishing and using your eco-prints.  

I've stitched individual pieces that 'spoke' to me - keeping the stitching relatively simple to (hopefully) enhance the beauty of the print.  Here's an example:

I'm beginning to think about whether I could put several eco-printed pieces together to make a large, pieced work - here's one mock-up that I did recently - I add and subtract pieces... auditioning. The pieces are pinned to a piece of foam core - ignore the red, it's the carpet. :

I think that many eco-printed fabrics would make great journal covers. I haven't done much with journals yet. I greatly admire the work that Peta Bailey does with journal covers - see her work at

Please, everyone, share your ideas for finishing and using your eco-printed fabrics - I know there are people out there who are doing wonderful things.

Back to Judith... and Judith,  I hope that you'll share photos of the eco-printed pieces in your recent show - the stitching was a beautiful complement for each piece.

Monday, June 20, 2016

More delicious-ness

Back with Janine...

I did a few more experiments with cooking bundles this weekend.  

In this one, which was steamed for about two hours, the Japanese maple gave me some lovely purple-grey colours, and a nice mix of dreamy shadowy leaf shapes and more distinct leaf prints.

This piece of old linen was also steamed - again, I really like the mix of subtle and distinct shapes, and the gentle colours. The plant materials were rose leafs and chopped maple.

This piece of silk organza took its colour from smoke bush - great purple-greys and olive greens. The smoke bush in my yard is just starting to come into bloom, and I included some of the unopened flowers - they made the spots that you see. What fun!

I tried one piece wrapped on a copper pipe (usually, I use a wooden dowel, a PVC pipe, or a piece of iron).  The results were very green, as I expected... even though I used smoke bush leafs.

Finally, the following two pieces came from a happy accident. I unintentionally left a bundle sitting in its bath for several days after the cooking. The bundle had maple leafs sandwiched between a piece of light linen and a piece of silk organza. The resulting prints are strong on both the linen and the organza - laid out next to each other in this photograph.

I wish I had some very colourful pieces to share with you but... you know, it's not my thing. I admire the work of others who get and love great colours.  Like my friend, Peta Bailey, who is a consummate eco-printer. If you want to see a glowing palette, check out her blog at  She actually did some of the prints on a trip to France - I love the image of her wandering in a French village, pinching the odd leaf, buying old linen in a French market, and then finding a way to steam her bundles - what an adventurer.

That's it for me tonight - back to Judith.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bundling with Lots of Artists

Judith says:
We've talked about material, mordants, leaves, and now we are on to the cooking process.  The first step is getting the leaves and the material into the pot.  The rule is that the leaves and the material need to be in firm contact.  After that rule almost anything goes.

Colour Ecology has a very nice post with pictures and instructions for bundling.  Kathy Beckett just finished a workshop with India Flint and had to try and document her attempt.

Colour Ecology folds her between boards then clamps them.

Becca Imbur also rolls and ties.  Notice the top one that looks like it maybe has a catalpa seed pod sticking out or it might just be a stick.

Threadborne wraps hers with copper to get that blue green color.

Lynda at BloomBakeCreate has been a guest artist on the Fire blog.  She has a nice post on eco-printing and two different types of bundles. Notice she is also using a copper pipe to wrap her fabric around and then is printing on paper with her flat bundle.

I personally have used the wrap-around-a-stick-or-copper-pipe method then using twine to hold the bundle tight.  I like a thicker twine for the strength.  I made the mistake once of using yarn which stretches when it is wet.  So not a good idea.  I have also experimented with colored twine and depending on the twine it can leave a very nice mark on the fabric.  Amelia Poole recommends using dowel rods wrapped in a plastic wrap as the center of the wrapped bundle so that the wood does not alter the color of the leaves.  Personally I like the more natural approach and use some almost straight sticks from my trees cut short enough to fit in my pot.  Do be aware that my sticks will give a less predictable result than Amelia's more controlled approach.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Cooking up delicious prints

Back to Janine...

Judith, thank you for sharing these beautiful prints. I love the colours, and the way you arranged your materials to get great patterns - clearly you're guided by your artist's eye!

Thanks also for sharing the links to Wendy Feldberg's tutorials. The on-line resources she's developed are pretty amazing. I highly recommend that readers check them out.

In this post, I'll share some of the things I do and the tools I use in the printing process.

Getting ready to print, here's a selection of plant materials (Japanese maple, coral bell, and geranium leafs, and maple keys). Also wooden dowels - some wrapped in plastic to reduce transfer of colour between processes) and string.

Here are some of my favourite 'found objects' to add to bundles... All of these are iron - you can see that they've been used and carry the rust of prior cooking.

My cotton and linen fabric pieces have been mordanted, dampened, and I've laid out plant materials on two fabric pieces. I spray dampen the fabric before laying out the leafs so that I can increase the contact between the fabric and the plant materials. Sometimes, I use a rolling pin to flatten the leafs to the fabric as thoroughly as possible.

Rolled up and tied as evenly and tightly as possible - ready to go into the pot.

And I'll also make a bundle in which I will use Japanese maple folded into a triple layer with leafs between each layer.

Now I'll fold the fabric around squares of iron, and add a washer - just to see what it does.

All bundled up, and ready for the pot.

I just purchased this lovely cooking pot from a retiring wool dyer at a flee market - perfect!  It's big enough to handle my longest dowel.  I used this pot for cooking this time, and immersed my bundles in water with an unshelled walnut in in.

For small bundles, I sometime use this handy little steamer. I'm using it here to steam a few pieces that are already eco-printed... seeing if the colours will intensify with more heat.

 Ta daaa - the results of one dowel rolled bundle - in this one, I did not use parchment paper to prevent colour from migrating through the bundle. I like the multiple images of leafs on top of each other - complex and a little chaotic.


And here's what came out of the other rolled dowel bundle, in which I used parchment paper to prevent transfer printing. The colours and images are much more subtle, somewhat dreamy to my eye.  It may be that this bundle would have been more intensely coloured with longer cooking (the parchment paper may have slowed up the heating within the bundle).

One more bundle to open - the one with the iron squares.

I like this one - the way the leafs have printed in a bit of a grid, influenced by the metal squares. I'll probably do this again, with a larger piece of linen. I'll omit the washers though :-) 

Bear in mind that colours often change after pieces have dried - they often darken and can intensify.  I like to let pieces dry for a few days, then launder gently in a mild soap, then iron.

So there you have it - back to Judith later this week for more inspiration!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Moving onto Plant Materials with a link to Wendy at Threadborne

This is Judith again.  I am a day late in my posting.  I can hear Beth grinding her teeth.  I hope the post is worth waiting for the pictures.

Today I am starting off with the artist for the day because she has a great post about the subject of the day.  Wendy at Threadborne has an extensive list and pictures of flowers, plants, and berries that will eco-print well.  Here is her tutorial on eco-printing.  It is in a great deal more detailed than my explanations have been and ever will be.

I thought I would share with you some of my best leaf prints.

This is poinsettia.  You can tell the difference between the red leaves and the green (yellow print on the left).  They are printed on silk.

I love the prints of strawberry runners.  The leaves also print but I love the runners the best. These are printed on cotton.

We used to call these cigars when we were little and pretended to smoke them. They are the seed pods of the Catalpa tree. Both the pods and the leaves print fabulous.  Do notice the blue that they produce.  The  pods were dry and brown.  It was my first attempt at printing something dried and it worked wonderfully.  The material is silk.

This print is from a bush in my woods.  I have yet to identify the bush.  I think it may be a dogwood species.  It has white flowers that are blooming now and I have never noticed any berries on the bush.  If you have a guess what it could be in Maine, please let me know.  The print is on cotton.

Okay these last two are not examples of leaf prints.  This is an example of a print I did not like that I then rusted.  Isn't it delicious?  See the washer on the left?  Before I rusted the material the print was just yellow.

Lastly, this is the benefit of using vintage/antique hankies.  Is the corner lovely?  And, the edges are already finished.  That is a huge plus for me!

Other leaves that I have had great success with are: peony, echinacea, rose, lilacs, Japanese maples, and geraniums.

I'll be back on Friday talking about bundling the leaves and material.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Kinds of images

Many things influence the nature of images you'll get, After you've prepared and mordanted your fabric, plant selection is the next decision you'll make. Which plant materials, and how you use them, will have a great deal of impact on your prints.

When I eco-print,  I aim for impressionistic, somewhat abstract images -  for suggestions of leaf shapes, rather clear crisp leaf prints. So I tend to lay out two, three, or more types of leafs on a piece of fabric, and I often tear or chop and layer the materials. The pieces below were done using this method. Looking at them will give you  a general idea of image and colour these types of materials can produce, but it'll be difficult to pick out distinct examples of what a specific material looks like.   I delight in letting the materials work with each other and the surprises that come when I open my bundles.

I want to tell you about some of my favourite plants and how I use them. My most reliable stand-bys are: rose bush leaf, apple tree leaf, sugar maple and oak tree leaf, and black walnuts (in the bath) . Bonus, these are not hard to come by! I often use these as a foundation and add other plant mateials.

Japanese maple, smoke bush, and coral bell leafs are favourites, probably because they tend to imprint well and often give smoky purple greys. The piece below shows a few smoke bush leafs fairly clearly, but also draws colour from other leafs, darkened and intensified by a healthy dose of walnut and iron in the cooking. The fabric is fine wool.

I also love the colours and prints that can come from raspberry and blackberry leafs, and from strawberry leafs and runners. The piece below shows the beautiful lines that can print from strawberry runners. You can also see leaf shapes - coral bell and apple. Note that the fabric (linen) is loosely woven and quite textured, yet it still printed well.

I particularly like a neutral palette , marked by plant materials. The piece below shows the dotted lines of strawberry runners - aided by chopped sugar maple leafs, which just showed up as sprinklings and pale, shadowy images. The fabric is a linen serviette.

Sometimes leafs will imprint with sprinkles of colour... in this cars the purple is probably from coral bell leaf

 Sometimes there are tracings of leaf shapes - the one below is from town sugar maple leaf

Catalpa pods,below, make a very distinctive print, and I often use them to make distinct, mysterious marks..

In all of the pieces I've shown you here, the materials worked together in the bundles to influence the intensity and colour of the print. And colours can also be affected by the other bundles, and what's in the bath if the bundles are immersed for boiling rather than held above the bath for steaming.

For those of you who prefer distinct, identifiable images of specific leafs, here are a few suggestions that will help you to get what you want.
- place your piece of fabric on a piece of parchment paper, which you will roll up with the fabric. The paper will prevent transfer of colour or image from one layer of fabric to another.
- lay out each leaf, stem, or flower so that it can come in full contact with the fabric - i.e. so that there isn't a stem of other leave overlapping.
- steam the bundles rather than immersing them for boiling
- reduce contact between bundles in the steam chamber either by keeping a bit of space between them, or by wrapping each bundle in parchment paper.