Thursday, May 24, 2007

Playing with fabric

Well, hello! I am actually doing some artwork. Or at least preparing to. I decided to participate in the Journal Quilt project for its final year. This is a project that started back in 2002 on the ArtQuilt list. Participants made a small (8.5 x 11) quilt each month for 9 months. The idea was to use these little pieces to experiment and try some new things. They were shown at the International Quilt Festival in Houston that fall and were a huge hit. The project continued and culminated last year with a book, Creative Quilting. The only year I participated was the first year, but one of my little quilts made the book. Karey Bresenhan, the president of the company that puts on the Quilt Festival, announced that this would be the last year for the project. Furthermore, the show would be of only one quilt from each participant, an 11 x 17" piece that uses at least 3 techniques that are represented in the Creative Quilting book. I decided that since I was in the first year, I should be in the last as well.

I have been looking through the book and thinking about what I want to do and what techniques I want to use. Since I usually use commercially printed fabrics in my work, I decided to try some of the techniques for creating one's own patterned fabrics. I want to try to create fabrics that have the geometric and graphic looks that I like in the commercial prints, so my approach will be a little different from most folks who paint or print their own fabrics.
My first piece uses the the technique of discharging the color from a solid fabric using bleach. I decided to mask areas of the fabric with pieces of freezer paper. (For those who don't know about freezer paper, it has a plastic coating on one side. When you put the plastic side against the fabric and press with a hot iron, the plastic softens just enough to adhere, temporarily, to the fabric. When you no longer need the freezer paper mask or stencil it peels cleanly off the fabric, leaving no residue. (Endlessly useful!) For my fabric I made a checkerboard pattern with half inch squares of freezer paper pressed to the fabric.

Yes, this part was a little tedious, but you will note that my squares are not perfect and the placement isn't perfect. I like things a little wonky, not perfect.

When all the squares were down, I carefully brushed the open areas with Soft Scrub liquid cleanser with bleach. There are more professional products made for discharging, but I had read that this works. The little scraps at the top of the picture each got a dollop as well. These were so I could test one and see how much color discharged after 10 minutes. If I wanted to leave the bleach longer, I checked another sample after 10 more minutes and so on. As it turned out, I found that after 10 minutes it really didn't change any further.

Here's how it looks after removing the freezer paper squares and washing out the Soft Scrub. Also, if you try this at home you need to treat the fabric with something that stops the action of the bleach, otherwise it will eventually rot the fabric. I use a product made for neutralizing the chlorine in aquariums called No Chlor. You can find it with pet supplies at the supermarket.

I think I may need to work with this fabric a little—add a little more color either with paint or pastels—before I really like it a lot, but thus far I am pretty happy with what I got.


  1. What a fun experiment! I love that you used freezer paper as your mask. I am going to have to remember that -- endlessly useful! Thanks!

  2. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Fabulous piece of fabric you have created there! I can only imagine how many times you burned your fingers :)

  3. You certainly have patience! This is definately on "my list of things to try". Thanks for your crystal clear descriptions.

  4. Ah the possibilities! Great start. I can't wait to see what you do next. I've heard soft scrub is perfect -- Natasha Kempers-Cullen uses it.

  5. Oh my gosh - I couldn't imagine ironing each little piece of freezer paper to that. Looks good though!