Fabric painting

Last week I took a one-day workshop on painting fabric with Setacolor paints and had lots of fun. We worked with transparent paints on white fabric and learned a number of techniques, and the best part is that you don’t have to know how to paint.

The advantage of painting your fabric rather than dying it is that there are no chemical concerns, no precautions other than trying to keep your workspace clean. On the other hand, with dyeing you can make more of the perfect shade once you’ve developed the recipe. And you can also make a lot more dyed fabric in one go than you can with painting. With fabric painting, each piece of fabric is painted individually such that amateurs like me may never be able to replicate a great piece.

Fabric painting with Setacolor paint is somewhat like watercolour painting on paper. You mix your paint with water, blending colours if you want to create a new one, wet the fabric prior to applying the paint, and away you go. Each of the pieces I made was on a piece of white cotton, approximately 13″ square.

My first piece of the day (left), and experimenting with rock salt

Two factors influence the degree to which the paint bleeds on or into the fabric: how diluted the paints are and how wet the fabric is. And if you want your paint to bleed even more after you’ve applied it, just spray the fabric with water and the paint will dilute and continue to bleed.

The photo below shows how much colours can fade when dry. Here I was trying the sun print technique, where the sun draws out the paint from under opaque objects. The more opaque the object, the cleaner the silhoutte. Needless to say, sponges aren’t all that opaque. Not like metal objects, anyway.

The before and after shots of a sun print


 If you create raised ripples of fabric when it’s still wet, the paint sits on the top edge and bleeds out a bit from the vertical sections of the ridge. The result is a stripey sort of effect, that you see on the leaves of this next piece (left). The peony blossom “grew” far more than I expected. So I took another stab at making a  bouquet and lucked into making something I love. As our teacher, Mary Pal said, there’s a Setacolour fairy and serendipitous things happen. I wish I had taken more pictures of the process because from the time I put down the brush through 1-hour intervals, this bouquet evolved into what you see here. 

This last picture shows two pieces I really never will be able to replicate. At the lunch break and at the end of the day I used spare fabric squares to clean out my paint pallette. And voila! Believe it or not, these are both flat, flat, flat. The creases you see are part of the paint design and happened when I bunched up the fabric to scoop out all the remaining paint. The creases that seem to be on the very first piece (blue and yellow, above), are also an illusion caused in part, by the way the fabric lay while it dried.


Setting things straight

In a previous post I showed pictures of my Dancing Shoo Flies I quilt and talked about how I managed to create such wavy edges. Since then, the unintended wonkiness of the quilt really got to me and I decided it had to be fixed — even if it meant removing the binding or other drastic measures.

But first I turned to the internet to see if there was a simpler solution. Most bloggers and discussion boards try to solve the problem of uneven or wavy borders on a quilt top. Only a few talk about fixing a quilt after it’s been quilted. A couple of sources suggested blocking the quilt the way you would a knitted garment prior to sewing it together.

Because that was the easiest and least invasive option, I started there. Blocking. And believe it or not… success! With so little information about this on the web, I thought I’d describe how I did it. 

Before (top), during (middle), after steaming

I lay one of the wavy edges onto the ironing board, and about 3 inches from the quilt’s edge I pinned it flat to the board. You can see the green glass pin heads in the second image. Once the quilt was anchored I pinned the binding to the board, right where the coloured border and the binding meet, and used extra pins in the particularly wavy sections. These are a bit more difficult to see, but they’re there.

With the iron set to linen and maximum steam, I held the iron just above the quilt and blasted away. Sometimes I had to hold down the steam button and other times the steam burst forth by itself. Once the steam dispersed I moved the iron to the next section and blasted there. After making two passes across the width of the quilt I left the quilt to cool. For the third picture (above) I removed the pins along the binding, and you can see how much flatter the quilt lies than in the first picture.

Flatter Dancing Shoo Flies I on my design wall