Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Fragment #2

I started a new series of patched and stitched work this week.
(Always feels good to start a new series!)

The series is called "Fragments" and feature torn bits of the rusted and stained fabrics that I showed in my last post.

I decided to do something a little different, and coat each torn piece in a very thin layer of beeswax. The beeswax gives the bits of fabric a new weight and hand... somewhere in-between fabric and paper.

It also alters the colors, making them a bit richer and at times, almost translucent.

Fragment #1

The bits of torn, wax coated pieces, are then stitched together in a pleasing composition, 

Fragment #3

then stitched onto 140 lb. paper, making them easy to display and frame. 

These were a delight to make, and I hope to get a few more done over the next few days. To see more of Fragments 1, 2 and 3, just click on the links under the photos.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rust Stains

I recently spent a few days rusting fabric in my backyard. If you have never done this before it's pretty simple, needing only fabric, water, vinegar, some rusty metal objects and plastic bags. 

To start, just pre-soak your fabric in water and vinegar, (1/2 and 1/2 will do) and wrap it around some metal objects that have a bit of rust to them, (it doesn't have to be much rust, as the vinegar and water will quickly grow the rust, so only use objects that you don't care about.) Cover the fabric with a plastic bag and let it sit for awhile. Depending on how the wet fabric and rusty objects react, you can have a rusted piece of fabric generally within 3 to 24 hours. 

Keep an eye on your fabric as if the rust gets too intense, it can be very difficult to sew through. Once you are satisfied, soak the rusted fabric in some salt water, followed by another soak in some water with baking soda added to it... both help to neutralize and stop the rusting process. Afterwards, give the fabric a good washing in some soapy water and rinse well. (I have heard it's ok to do it in the washing machine, but personally, I felt better doing it in an old metal wash tub out in the back yard.) Keep rinsing until the water is clear.

As far as objects go, a rusty pole works fabulously. Just wrap the wet fabric around the pole, tie with some string to secure it and cover it with a plastic garbage bag. The rusty circle above, was the top of the pole!

Another great way is to place the wet fabric on an old metal cookie tray, (one that you don't mind getting rusty) then place some old metal objects on top of the fabric, and another wet piece of fabric on top of that. Slide the tray into a plastic bag, seal shut, and place some heavy objects on top to keep the fabric pieces in close contact with the metal.

For the fabric above, I used an old rusty, metal seahorse ornament that I had hanging on my shed, and some vintage rusty keys, along with some old nails. The wrinkles in the wet fabric, along with the rust formed on the metal tray during the process, helped to create the other organic shapes.

Part of what makes the process so enjoyable is that you never know what you will wind up with. Check out the fabric on the left... I used the seahorse on this piece as well, but unlike the previous fabric sample, this time the rust formed a negative image. 

Oh, and a bit about the fabric... I used several types of fabric, all cotton but of varying weights, from light muslin, (pictured on the left) to quilting weight, (pictured below) to heavier muslin/feedsack weaves, (pictured on the right). I also only used fabrics in a natural color range.

This key shape also came out in a negative form on this sample, while on other samples it came out in the positive... the mystery of the rusting process never fails to amaze!

Above, more organic shapes formed from the wet wrinkled fabric laid on top of the old metal cookie tray. 

Before rusting I tied some of the fabric samples around some sticks and plant matter from my yard and soaked them in a hot tea bath. Those fabric samples turned black and gray in some areas during the rusting process... more mystery! One thing I find comforting is rust won't fade, unlike some other natural dyeing methods that I have tried. (Even with mordant I have had problems). 
As for those blackish areas, only time will.

Pretty, pretty, pretty!


And last but not least... in regards to my last post, a heartfelt thank you on all the positive feedback and support, and for those of you who have had similar experiences and long held fears... you are not alone.

I also want to clear up some confusion that I may have inadvertently caused... in regards to the story about the sketchbook that I was given as a child, I fear, based on some comments, that I may have given some of you the impression that I haven't drawn since then... so far from the truth. I just didn't draw in that sketchbook, and since have had a block with all sketchbooks... thank goodness for loose paper!

In case of any confusion, please know this: The arts were a big deal in my house, and from an early age it was pretty much a given that I was to be an artist of one degree or another. I drew constantly my whole growing up. I went on to art school where I majored in graphic design and illustration. Outwardly, I did very well, inwardly I was a mess of conflict and unhappiness. It took a toll on me and by my early 20's, I lost the bravery that my child self once possessed, and I could no longer take the ingrained self-doubt of not being "good enough" anymore. So, I put away my illustrating dreams and for the most part, stopped drawing. (One of my professors hit the nail on the head when he said that I suffered from the disease of perfectionism, and I can attest to it being a very debilitating disease.)

Now, over the years I have doodled here and there, and have played around with machine and hand-stitched drawings, which I have shared here along the way and can be seen in my flickr sets, (just click on "Gallery" on the top bar of this blog). However, those ghost voices of self doubt and criticism have been so unrelenting that the joy is always soon squashed down, and I give up again. I almost wind up in a fetal position of heartache. It just becomes too much.

My goal this time is to once and for all, overcome the fear, release the feeling that perfection is the goal, and embrace the fun and play that drawing once was and held the promise to always be. It is just not okay that a piece of paper and a pen or pencil can be frightening. I gotta get over this.

Judgement is the scariest monster that ever lived under one's bed.

The good news is, I am drawing, my shell is slowly cracking, and each day more and more light is shining inward. 

(We all know that monsters can't live where light shines.)