Lino printing is one of my favourite methods of mark making on fabric - along with mono printing from glass sheets covered in ink. Although two quite different processes I have found the two generally go hand in hand. In this post I'll share the lino prints I am making and in my next post I will show you how the mono printing is going.
A few weeks ago I went on an excellent course at Ardington School of Crafts in Oxfordshire. It is a lovely place and is very well run by Simon and Yvonne Sonsino. The course was run by painter and printmaker Jessica Rose (www.jessicaroseartist.co.uk) and was one of the best I have been on in a long time. Jessica is lots of fun and very knowledgeable. She passed on all sorts of helpful information - the sort you just can't get from watching a YouTube video!
This is the print block I made on the day, reworked a little to clean it up (hence the pale coloured gouges you can see on the lino block above).
At the course I learned a clever technique that allowed me to make prints with the block on Japanese gampi paper and then add colour to a separate layer behind the paper. The effect is very delicate and as it uses different layers is a technique I would like to explore with fabric.
Mono print and ink wash layers: print on Japanese gampi paper, ink on watercolour paper
I love the way the bold black printed image on the left is really crisp - the black mount around it really enhances the print. In contrast, the white mount of the right subdues it considerably. (same print in both)
I also like the way the water based ink wash that is placed behind the print subtly shows through the beautifully thin and floaty gampi paper. (Carrying a wet fresh print on gampi paper across a crowded workshop requires a lot of planning and no sudden wafts of air!)
Now I have had time to experiment with this technique a little more I have made some samples that I want to use in a small new series that will join the others in my In Their Shoes series. The quilts I want to make are going to focus on the many forms of child labour, from children working within a family setting all the way to child slavery.
Up until now all my lino printing has been self taught. I have learned a lot by myself and really enjoy spending a few hours carving away at various different blocks. As a novice I generally prefer to carve the softer vinyl blocks that are available in most art shops and on line to the harder and sometimes more crumbly grey lino, often referred to as 'Battleship'. (The green block below is an example of one of the softer relief vinyls which is easier to cut, but can be a little stretchy, causing other issues as you carve.)
As I was going to the course I decided I really needed to make the most of having an expert to teach me, so I had a splurge and bought a selection of different types of lino block material and new set of carving tools.
In the past I have relied on the cheap and cheerful red plastic handled cutting tool with interchangeable blades. I must say, there is nothing terribly wrong with them and I have made some great print blocks using them. But my blades are all blunt and rather than spend another £10 on a new set of blades I decided to see what else was available. Turns out there are lots to choose from and a lot of money can be spent!
For a brief moment I did consider the beautifully made Pfeil carving tools but I just couldn't figure out which of the huge number of different shapes and sizes I should buy (too much choice is no choice at all as the saying goes). They were too expensive for me to just guess so I decided to look elsewhere. (Since then I have discovered this fantastic website and blog which might have helped my had I found it earlier: https://www.drawcutinkpress.com/pfeil-lino-cutting-tools-guide/ )
After much searching I ended up choosing this set of Japanese wood carving tools - and they have turned out to be fabulous to use. Of the 5 in the box I have found 4 to be just the sizes I need. (I'm not really sure what to do with the 5th one yet!). Compared to the small red handles tool these cut through even old tough lino with ease.
This is a close up of the block I carved at the course with my lovely new cutters. I used a piece of fresh grey lino - and was amazed at how easy it was to cut compared to using the little red handled cutter - I know it is an old chestnut, but it really was like cutting into butter. I needed no real effort at all to cut the lino and the lines I cut were very clean allowing me to get lots of detail and fiddly bits. In future I think I will be choosing grey lino blocks rather than the easy carve vinyl if these tools continue to perform as they did on first use. (But, if I do use one of those little red cutters again I think I will prefer to choose one of the softer types of lino substitutes and sacrifice the fine detail).
And this is a piece of white Kona cotton fabric that I printed using the block.
I plan to use this fabric and lots more in a new series of quilts I have in mind to make concerning child labour. In my next post I will share the mono prints that I plan to use along with this fabric.
Thanks for reading.
This copper quilt is driving me mad! I don't think I have ever spent so long over the development of a quilt as this. For once I I had too many ideas and I decided to explore all the possibilities, which has all taken time:
copper used for electrical wiring, circuits & microschips;
copper fixed to the hulls of ships to reduce the amount of fouling and thus make them faster, so slave ship owners would loose less of their 'perishable' human cargo;
copper mined in Cornwall and refined in South Wales, forming the backbone of the economy for the south west until cheaper copper was found elsewhere;
the little known copper-age, ( about 4500 B.C. to 3500 B.C.) where copper metal was worked on a relatively large scale in part because it is found in "large pure ingots in a natural state" in many different locations around the world;
Copper used in medicine as an antiseptic to sterilize, cure eye ailments, help with immunity and TB treatment, give relief from arthritis and as a contraceptive .....
The list goes on, but I wanted to research each of these ideas before I narrowed down my options.
Happily, today, I made a final decision and brought together my refined ideas to form a resolved design. It is a huge relief!
I finally decided the narrative for this quilt would be the Roman goddess Venus, who, in Western classical tradition, is the most beautiful of all goddesses and is the living embodiment of fertility, love and sexuality. Her birth and subsequent life story is inextricably linked with the island of Cyprus, ancient home of the metal copper.
Venus is also known as the 'Alchemical goddess', because she alone had magical powers that could cause both gods and mortals to do as she wished. One thing I rather like about Venus is that she does not fit the image of a 'vulnerable' woman as do many other goddesses, and in classical times was never victimised or made to suffer because she was a woman. She was mother of Cupid and many, many others; she cast spells which resulted in mortals and gods falling in love and conceiving new life; she turned a statue into a living woman for Pygmalion; she inspired poetry and declarations of love. Whole goddess cults grew around her, (some still continuing to this day) focusing on fertility and love. Such was her popularity and power, even Julius Caesar himself declared her an ancestral relative.
During the Renaissance Venus's popularity as a 'sexual' goddess made her a subject of great interest and depictions of her became the classical nude figure. What is interesting to me is though, is how, over time, such depictions have gradually transformed the notion of 'Venus the revered goddess' into a simple nude female sex object. This change is what I decided to explore with my quilt.
I have decided to call this quilt 'Goddess or Sex Object?' and have used Botticelli's painting of Venus as a starting point.
I have kept the quilt top in two parts, to reflect this dual view of Venus and have cut into the quilt to create a large venus symbol. To join the two sides I have created something 'appropriate' - I hope people can figure out what they are supposed to be!
This is how the quilt currently looks.....
It still isn't finished as I have more to work on at the top of the quilt, but I am finally happy with the direction it is going.
Thanks for looking.
I am still working on my sulfur quilt and as I have been working in creating the fabrics I have been thinking about the life the carusi must have endured. Sold to the mine owners or workers for an agreed number of years, what must they have thought of their lives as they hauled heavy loads of sulfurous rock from deep underground up to the surface? They often lived, ate and slept somewhere in the mine, having no proper home to return to. For many boys their only escape from this dreadful life was to be rescued by being called up for military service.
The artist Onofrio Tomaselli created this painting in 1905 after staying for some time with Baron La Lumia, a wealthy sulfur mine owner, and witnessing at first hand the fate of the carusi. The painting was exhibited in 1906 in Milan at the World's Fair and was a tribute to 19 carusi who lost their lives in one of many terrible accidents at La Lumia's sulfur mine in Gessolungo, which occurred in 1881. I guess it shows that there were, at least, some people with a conscience at the time.
(Source: Davide Mauro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
For the fabrics, I dyed lots of yellows as you would probably expect. Starting with lemon and golden yellow fiber reactive dye I added very small amounts of orange, rust, bronze and chartreuse to create interesting mottled backgrounds. Onto that I monoprinted shapes, words and other marks that help tell the story of the carusi.
The fabrics have turned out to be very interesting - I added very dense print marks, which may mean the quilt will end up with very 'busy' look, so I will have to be very careful when positioning the different pieces.
Planning ahead, I decided to check out how the straight quilting lines would look over the young boy's face, so I made a small trial piece. Although it may seem like an extra step, I prefer to try out important design features to ensure I am happy with the effect before moving on with a design. I have used this simple but effective straight line quilting pattern on the other quilts in this series, so I was keen to continue using it, but not if it comporomised the overall look of the quilt. Happily, I think it works well.
As I have no plan for this small sample I have entered it into that SAQA 2017 trunk show. I hope it arrives in time!
I am now in the process of positioning the fabrics on the design wall to create the quilt top. I usually take a quick photo of several different variations and then look at them to see what works and what needs to be changed. Somtimes a layout just falls into place, but when it doesn't I find this really helpful.
I'll let you know how it develops in my next post. Until then, thanks for reading.
If you went to Festival of Quilts, I hope you had a lovely time. As usual there was lots of excellent work to see, old and new friends to meet, and a hint of controversy too.
My mum and I spent a great weekend together and came away with lots of ideas and a little bit of shopping too. One of our favourite galleries was that belonging to Russian artist Lyubov Lezhanina. (Click on her name for a link to her Facebook page). It was tucked away right in the back corner, so if you didn't get down there, here are some photographs of her wonderful work.
And now back to work....
On October 2nd I have a new 'Further Techniques' workshop coming up at Midsomer Quilting where we will be taking a more considered approach to some of the ideas used in the original 'Techniques 1' workshop. The aim of the new workshop is to add surface design to large pieces of fabric in order to create a co-ordinated collection that can be used to create a unique art quilt.
Not only is is an interesting little creature to look at, it is also a very simple shape with some interesting marks which will transfer nicely as a lino block.
To start the block I made a very simple drawing of the shapes I wanted to carve. You can see that there is no detail here - just the outlines of some vaguely moth shaped creatures and some lines giving the idea of movement. (Please ignore the faint beetle and ant shapes in pencil - this is a recylced piece of paper and they have nothing to do with the moths)
This is what I intend to carve into the piece of 'lino' (I like to use a soft plastic type material as a substitute for lino as it is much easier to cut into and doesn't crumble like lino can if it gets cold or dries out). The moth shapes will remain whole on the block and the lino material all around them will be carved away.
Using a very soft pencil I traced the outlines then transferred them onto the lino block, ready to carve.
You can see the smudgy pencil outlines of the moth shapes and also see where I have started to carve into the block, taking out the green plastic material with the cutting blade. However, it is already starting to get a little confusing as to what should be carved away and what should remain, so I took a black marker pen and coloured in all the areas I want to stay. That way I hope I wont make any mistakes and carve out a section that should stay. Once it is gone, it is gone and there isn't a lot that can be done!
I hope this photo makes it all clearer. The black sections will be left alone for the time being, and all the green areas need to be carved away with the cutting tool. All those little grooves that remain in the carved away section produce beautiful graphic marks on your prints, so don't try and make it all super smooth.
SAFETY FIRST: If you try this then you MUST only ever carve away from yourself. That blade is super sharp and not only does it really hurt when you slip and stick it into yourself, it goes in deeply too and there will be a lot of blood and maybe tears. You need quite a lot of pressure to carve into the lino so accidents, which do happen, are not nice.
Make sure the hand which is holding the lino block is never in front of the hand holding the carving tool. Although this sounds obvious, it is easy to forget and let that free hand hold the block in such a way as to almost guarantee you will get cut. Turn the lino block often to make sure you are always cutting away from yourself and your free hand.
It took about half an hour to carefully carve away all the green material around the black shapes, and the block was ready to have its first trial to see what else was needed to add interest. Using a roller and some printing ink I inked up the block and made a trial print onto a piece of scrap paper. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of this very first print, but once I could see how it looked I wiped the block clean with a tissue and carved a little more removing areas where I wanted more definition and where I wanted more detail. This is the print I made next.
You can see it is not a good print, but the purpose of this one was simply to see how the extra detail I added looked. The moth on the right was looking more like a wasp with the marks I carved into the wing sections - so I knew I needed to cut some more into that area to sort out that problem. But I do like the small straight lines I made in the body of the moth on the left.
After that I made a further trial print. The photo below shows this and the ink and roller I used to ink up the lino block. Again, it is a terrible print, but it showed me enough detail of the marks I had cut into the lino. I still don't like the waspy looking one though. Those lines on the wings are all wrong. I'll have to work on that some more.
Here is the finished block - still a bit wet after washing off the ink under the tap.
And here are two of the early prints in my sketchbook. I have added a little colour to the one on the left with Markal oilstick. I had intended working onto it with watercolour paint and pencils - but I have discovered that the new ink I have purchased is not permanent once dry and so is pretty useless for my purposes! Aagh!! The moment any water touches the print the black ink smears all over the place and not only ruins the print, but turns everything black. So choose your ink carefully, or use acrylic paint which also works well, and is permanent once dry.
I will work on this block some more, make some better prints and then print up some nice fabric to share in a few weeks time. If you decide to have a try at lino cutting, and it is great fun, please do take care. Put your work onto a non-slip mat or a whole newspaper (to protect your table in case of slips) and remember to keep your free hand behind the cutting tool!
Thanks for reading.
I decided to make a little quilt this week for the workshop I am teaching on Sunday at Midsomer quilting. The workshop is called 'Not my grandmother's garden' and is very loosely based on the very traditional quilt made solely from hexagons - just like the first picture up above on the left. The first piece of patchwork I ever made (when I was 11 years old) was just 7 hexagons big, and I must say, it didn't inspire me to carry on with patchwork at that time. Too many fiddly bits for an impatient eleven year old! However, several years ago I made the yellow quilt (above) for a Quilting Arts Magazine challenge, and used the traditional hexagon quilt as the starting point. Hopefully you can see the hexagonal 'flowers' behind all the paint, thread and buttons.
The inspiration for this last quilt came from one of Monet's paintings of the waterlily ponds at his home in Giverny. The top section of the green quilt reminded me of a watery pond, and made me think of Monet. Changing the shape of the hexagonal flower into a rounded flower is the sort of variation I was looking to explore for the workshop. It also meant I learned another new patchwork technique - Suffolk Puffs.
To make my version of the lily pond I needed to start with a watery blue background fabric - but my stash of such fabrics is rather depleted at the moment, so I needed a quick way to make a suitable piece. I decided to try my hand at marbling with shaving foam, as I believe it is quick and easy (nobody ever seems to mention how messy, however!).
If you haven't had a go at this technique it really is fun - but I do recommend wearing an apron and having lots of newspaper and a large bucket of water and a bin at your side!
(Arthur Comstock - a little bird told me that you love the gelli plates, so I think you might like to have a go at this too!)
This is what I did...
The shaving foam on the tray can be used several times, spreading it out again and adding more paint. My foam did start to break down and 'curdle' after a while, so when that happened I scooped what was left into the bin and started again.
The whole process took less than 3 or 4 minutes per piece of fabric, so was a quick project which yielded several very nice pieces of fabric, each a little different.
I'll add some photos of the quilts made at the workshop as soon as I can.
Thanks for reading.
I hope you will be as pleasantly surprised with the results of the avocado dyeing experiments I did last week. You can see the results below. After soaking overnight in the dye bath, I laundered the fabric and the result was a beautifully soft dusty pink (it is the fabric in the centre). The other wonderful thing is the fabric had the most lovely smell - a slightly perfumed citrussy freshness. I wish I could bottle it!
I think the 3 fabrics below look beautiful together don't you? - The original white, the avo dyed fabric and then the walnut dyed fabric I made a few months ago.
Adding the iron after mordant
If you have ever tried working with indigo or wode then you will know about the magic that happens once the fabric comes out of the vat - well, a similar thing happens with avocado dyed fabric once it hits the iron after mordant. It is like magic!
I think the best way I can show you what happens is in pictures..............
I decided to try a folding technique and dip the dyed fabric into the iron after mordant to see what would happen. I folded the fabric following the instructions in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTaAl4us8aY
Once it was folded I poured the iron after mordant I made last week into a bowl and briefly dipped the edges of the fabric into it. As soon as I took the fabric out and the air hit the fabric it began to change colour.
The whole reaction takes place in a matter of seconds, and the more of the iron mordant you add the darker the fabric becomes. I had not realised quite how strong or quick the reaction would be, and unfortunately on this occasion I think I rather overdid the dip! Still - it was a great learning experience, and next time I will be much more light handed.
I have also experimented with other methods of applying the iron water by painting lines and dripping it onto the fabric. There is a lot of opportunity to experiment here.
Sadly the lovely smell is now gone, replaced instead with that curious metallic smell which reminds me of blood (that'll be the iron!) Still, it turned into a pretty interesting piece of fabric.
And to my friend k3n - you are absolutely right - 'saddened' is a very good adjective! (see the comment k3n left at the end of last weeks post) I Hope you have fun if you have a try.
Thanks for reading!
As you may well know, I have a bee in my bonnet about encouraging people to feel more confident about creating their own original work. I do understand why people want to come to a workshop where everyone makes a quilt that is almost the same as the model the teacher provides; you know what you are aiming for, you know which resources to bring, and you know what you will go home with. Job done. But that scenario makes me just a bit twitchy. If you are going to pay your hard earned money to attend a workshop why not go to one where learn to make something just a bit more than someone else's quilt? Why not take the first steps towards learning how to design your own? Sure, it is a bit more effort, and you do risk it not turning out the way you expect - but you also gain by creating something completely your own at the end of the day. You gain by learning more than just techniques - you learn how to create something new and how to take more control of the process so that next time you will be more confident when it comes to trying out something new.
That is what I am hoping for with these two new workshops - 'A Garden of Roses' and 'Not My Grandmother's Garden'.
A Garden of Roses workshop
In this workshop we will look at the two quilts above and analyse some of the design elements and principles I have used to arrive at the finished design. More specifically we will examine the lines, shapes, use of space & colour, and how these elements have been pulled together to ensure harmony, balance, contrast and rhythm to give an overall unity to the finished quilts. Don't worry - it wont be boring, and we wont spend hours on theory! We will just be looking at real quilts and pulling out what is relevant to us as quilters. Using this information you will then design your own quilt by selecting your own variations of the design elements and principles and get started on making it. It isn't difficult and I will guide you though the whole process, giving you lots of ideas for creating your own work.
I'll also teach you the techniques of free cutting and piecing gentle curves if you wish to incorporate that into your design and I I used make your own interpretation. Let
Of course, if you don't want to alter the design and you would simply like to make either of these quilts then I am very happy for you to do just that, so don't feel you have to get into the design process if you don't wish to go down that path.
Not My Grandmother's Garden
Once again, if you don't want to alter the design and you would simply like to make a copy of this quilt then I am very happy for you to do just that, so don't feel you have to get into the design process if you don't wish to go down that path.
For more information on these and my other workshops I have created brochures which you may like to look at. You can find information on all my workshops by clicking on the WORKSHOPS tab at the top of any of my web pages - or by clicking on the pictures below.
Thanks for reading.
A new week - a new quilt.
Now that the roses quilt is finished I have moved on to the next quilt idea which has been buzzing around inside my head for a while. This one concerns credit - and more specifically credit cards. I wont relate the story behind this quilt just yet, (I'll save that for another day once I make a bit more progress with the quilt) but instead I want to share an idea I had for recycling plastic milk bottles.
I don't know about you, but I end up with a lot of plastic milk bottles in my recycling bin each week. Not only are they quite bulky, (even when squashed down) but it just seems wrong to throw them away. They seem too 'good' to just use once and then discard into landfill (and although 72% of bottles were recycled in 2010 in the UK, 20,000 tonnes were sent to landfill) . So, I keep them. But when you have a bag full and then a box full - what do you do?
There are lots of ideas on the internet for how to use them - do a search and you will be amazed. These are a few of my favourite ideas......
....back to the quilt (but I do love that skeleton)......
My idea for the quilt requires that I put numbers onto the fabric using a font similar to that found on credit cards. Finding different fonts on the internet is easy - and once you find the one you like, download it to your computer. Using something like MS Word you can then write what you want and resize the characters to suit your needs. This is how I created the digits below.
To apply the numbers to the fabric I chose to stencil them on using Markal paintsticks. I like these as when you apply them lightly they provide a hint of colour - which is the effect I was after.
In the past, when making stencils for a one off project I usually choose freezer paper as it is easy to cut and has the benefit of being able to be ironed to the fabric. This stops the stencil from moving about as you apply the paint (or whatever you are using) and limits seepage under the edges of the stencil. One drawback, however, is that they aren't really all that robust, and easily tear after a few uses, especially when the stencil has fine detail or bridges and islands like the number 8 above.
As numbers can be quite useful in lots of contexts I may well use these stencils again in the future, so thought it might be a better idea to spend the time cutting them from something more robust. Stencil plastic is the obvious choice, and I have also used laminating sheets in the past to make very good stencils, but I don't have either of those to hand at the moment. So I started to look around to see what else I could find - and that is when I remembered the box of bottles. Bingo!
As it turns out, the slightly opaque HDPE plastic makes a fabulous material from which to cut stencils as it is possible to see through the stencil edges, making placement easy.
A word of caution
I used a craft knife and an old pair of small scissors to cut through the plastic. I also used an old cutting mat to protect the table and took great care when using the knife. TAKE GREAT CARE WHEN CUTTING THROUGH THE PLASTIC AND MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS WHEN USING SHARP BLADES. Blood on stencils never looks good.
All in all it probably took me about an hour to cut out all 10 digits, not much longer than it would have taken had I just cut the stencils from freezer paper. For this set of stencils I used 3 bottles, and since I had lots more I made a little box to keep them in. I couldn't resist it. Click on the photo on the right to go to the tutorial I used.
Below are a few pictures of the fabric embellished using the stencils with a selection of Markal oil stick colours.
I can see no reason why other recyclable materials could also be useful for stencil making, but the HDPE milk cartons certainly work well. (After a little further investigation I have discovered this type of plastic can be easily transformed into other shapes by melting and reforming it. With a little care it is safe to do as the melting point is around 180 decrees c - and no fumes are given off at this temperature. Try an internet search - you will be pleasantly surprised I am sure!)
Thanks for reading. If it turns out well I will keep you posted as to how this quilt develops.
By the way.... I have recently created a Facebook page where I will be posting information on my current workshops and other quilt related interesting things. If you would like to follow the page I have a link at the bottom of the page. Alternatively you can click here to go to the page and then click LIKE.
Happy New Year!
A slightly different way to use the gel plate
As I had the gel plates out today I decided to use the large plate to help me create a piece of fabric for a new quilt I have in mind.
The quilt needs a long thin piece of fabric with foliage hanging downwards. Whilst I was walking through Sydenham Botanic Park this morning I collected a small bag full of organic bits and bobs from the ground. One of them was a small piece of twig from a beautiful Jacaranda tree which I thought would be perfect for the job. It was the right size and scale and was flexible enough to make the gently curving foliage.
I decided to use the Jacaranda twig to print the delicate little leaf shapes onto the fabric. As each twiglet (I don't think that is the real name, I just made that up) has 20 or more tiny leaves it was going to be tricky to ink up the whole thing for printing. Normally I would use a sponge or roller to put the ink on - but I knew this would probably damage the delicate little leaves - so I decided to put the ink onto the gel plate paint and then press the leaves gently onto the plate to apply the ink. When I pulled the ink covered twig away from the plate it was ready to print onto the fabric.
I now need to work on this piece of fabric some more, to add more interest and depth. I'm not exactly sure how it will turn out yet, but that is all part of the excitement and fun!
Thanks for reading.
So - this is what you do...........................
Re-forming the plates
Cut or rip the gel plate you wish to recycle into chunks. This helps speed up the melting process.
Put it into a microwave bowl and heat for around 1 to 2 minutes on full power (I have a 750W microwave). Keep your eye on it and give it a stir after a minute. If you need to add more time do it in short bursts and watch it at all times. You want the mixture to just bubble up but not over the edges.
If it spills over, don't wipe it up - just allow the hot gel to cool then peel it off and stir it back into your molten gel.
Glycerine and gelatine from MM ingredients
Glycerine BP (that means pharmaceutical grade) can a be bought more cheaply in chemists (such as Boots) than in supermarkets where you find edible grade glycerine.
Isopropyl alcohol - also commonly known as 'surgical spirit' or rubbing alohol in the UK. Don't bother with Boots for this one - the thought police have been there and they just give you 'the look' when you ask for it. Last time I tried Superdrug still sell it.
Glycerine and Isopropyl alcohol from Pure Nature
Gelatine I buy at the supermarket
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Sew On The Go