Saturday, February 27, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board

I will say that I learned a lot through this challenge. One of the important things I realized is that I am NOT good at creating fabrics. Cutting them, yes. Stitching them, yes.  Hand-dying? No.

The other thing I learned (or reinforced) is that I work better when I have a plan. I don't really enjoy the process many call “intuitive” or “spontaneous” or stream-of-consciousness. It just doesn’t work for me. I often end up, as I did with this one, creating a haphazard soup of ideas with no clear direction and a lot of wasted time.

I’m NOT blaming the challenge at all! It was a very interesting and valuable challenge idea. I’m just unhappy with my poor execution of it. But it’s ok. They can’t all be masterpieces. Let’s walk through the wayward journey of this quilt….

Natural dyes. Ok, I thought, what kinds of things have stained our clothes and tablecloths? I started with beets, blended and boiled.
My fabric-dying friend recommended using a mordant but I couldn’t find any that I’d consider “natural”. So I went without a mordant, knowing that the color might not be very vibrant. I soaked the PFD fabric in beet juice for 48 hours thinking it would be a wonderful pink color at least. Nope. ALL the red rinsed right out (just plain water, I didn’t even wash it!) The results were barely the color of my own pale skin. Which is to say something like a light beige blush. meh.

Next I tried to add some personality using rubber bands and tie-dye techniques.

I soaked the fabric in dark espresso and some crushed raspberries.   Delicious, right?

The color it produced was less savory.  I’d call it “Sun bleached khaki tote bag”.
Again, time invested with very little payoff.

My last resort – frozen blueberries.
Poured into a kitchen trash bag along with the fabric, thawed, crushed, smushed and left for 2 days. Taken out and literally just rinsed enough to get the blueberry guts off it. Then ironed to heat set it. Here’s where we stood:

Hooray!! Color!!  Not a beautiful color, granted. Not even very consistent but who cares. I have colored the fabric!!! Wooo hooo! (Dancing around as if I had just discovered fire). Success!

Oh, wait. For a second there I thought I was done with the challenge. Now I have to DO something with this fabric. Oh yeah.

At first glance it looked like spilled ink. So since I was running short on time, I went with that idea.  I drew a picture of an ink jar and feather using sharpie marker. 
Not bad, but kind of boring and hard to see the feather amid the busy background.  So I added some fabric paint to colorize the feather and add some deeper black to the ink. 
Better, but still I’m just floundering and reacting instead of following a vision. I decided to move it on to quilting, hoping to clarify the feather and make it “pop” with colorful thread.
Ok, good. But how to stitch the background? I had no idea. I’m just flying by the seat of my pants on this.  So I took a moment to think. The only impression I was getting from this piece was the feeling of constantly going back to the drawing board. As if this quilt were a chalk board or sketch book where I was working out random ideas.  Not something completely thought out.

The stitching is an approximation of writing, there are no real words just the shapes and rhythm of writing. Crossed out phrases, circles, arrows and small diagrams are included as if the writer is formulating a plan. But in reality it’s all nonsense.  Fitting, I think.  HAHA!!


  1. Great piece! Like you, I don't dye fabric - I admire you trying! My solution turned up to be very different….

  2. Love this - (she laughed, knowingly….) perfect, love the nonsense text.

  3. Great to read about your process-you created a great piece from all of that and I love the gibberish text background.

  4. Great to read about your process-you created a great piece from all of that and I love the gibberish text background.

  5. yes, great read..and a wonderful response to what you had to work with. I so relate to not much color :^{ I love what you did with it! it is beautiful...subtle too

  6. Thanks everyone. Who knows how long this un-mordant-dyed color will last? But at least the stitches will survive. In fact the gibberish writing was my favorite part. I might give it more thought and do something with that in the future. That's what I love about Viewpoints 9 - the chance to experiment and explore new territory. Even if I'm not thrilled with the immediate results, the experience will stay with me. And each of these challenges will inform my work in the future. Thanks Sue!

  7. loved it Kate! (and yay for paint :))

  8. You had me laughing at 'jummping around like I had discovered fire!' But what a girgeous quilt resulted from the blueberries fabric and your feather quill! Gotta love paint.