Fifteen yards of cotton fabric arrived yesterday, along with some opaque textile paints and a few more T-shirts. I’ve been meditating on what to do next. Now that the practical considerations (new clothes + quilting fabric) are taken care of, I think I’m going to do a more serious study of surface design techniques and composition. Jane Dunnewold’s Art Cloth is going to be my guide during this study – the (excellent, excellent!) book has instructions for most surface design techniques AND some guides to composition!
So the question becomes, how do I break things down? I can focus on a single technique, delving into the depths of discharge printing or dyeing – which is good for studying technique, not so good for composition – or I can work on a single piece from start to finish, using multiple techniques. Better for composition, not so good for technique. Also involves more mixing-up, since many of the materials don’t keep well.
I suspect I may take a combined approach – do one technique at a time, but use them in a variety of compositional approaches – subdued vs. bold, “busy” vs. “quiet”, small designs vs. large, etc. to see what effects I get with each. I will probably put together a matrix of things to try, not as a hard and fast rule but as a general guide. I’m sure I will stray considerably from it, but I’m more comfortable having a plan.
I’m still deciding what size pieces to work on. I think I will either work in fat quarters (22.5″ x 18″) or fat halves (22.5″ x 36″), mainly because my dye/printing table is only two feet across! This will let me keep the fabric flat without resorting to more complicated measures.
The four design materials I will be studying are: dyeing, discharge, paints, and foil. The six application methods will be:
- bound-resist (tie-dye, shibori),
- chemical resist (wax resists, paste, etc.),
- screen printing
That is a lengthy list and most of these items are worth a lifetime of study just by themselves! But I am not after a deep understanding, just a general idea of how and when to use them. That is somewhat less daunting.
Anyway, dyeing is the first step in surface design, so that’s what I’ll do this weekend. I need to read up on different dye techniques this week, so I can experiment as broadly as possible. Fifteen yards of fabric sounded like a lot until I started thinking of all the things you can do with it! Now I can already see that I’ll need more. (But not for a few weekends, perhaps?)
Meanwhile, since every blog post should have a pretty picture, here is my latest quilt square:
It works reasonably well from a technical standpoint, but compositionally it doesn’t work at all. The pale pink is too pale – it stands out like a sore thumb and doesn’t look related to the darker magenta elements at all. So it stops the eye and the block degenerates into visual chaos. If I do it again, I will do it in single colors.
Next up is Dutchman’s Puzzle, which I am hoping to complete today.
Linda Zadik says
Try using a ruby beholder to assign values to each fabric, and then do one round of your block design in greyscale. I was amazed how much this improved the clarity of my blocks, and I don’t recall seeing it explicitly recommended anywhere.
Nancy Lea says
What a nifty-sounding tool! I’ve ordered two of them, one for the den and one for the weaving-shed. Sounds like it might save me a good deal of squinting and reaching for the Munsell chips!!!
(The time-honoured F.I.T. method! Gotta confess, “Colour Fundamentals” was my favourite course. A friend from school actually used to introduce me to people with “This is my friend, Nancy. She LOVED “Colour Fundamentals.'” I gather this was considered some kind of aberration. LOL)