Some of my quilting sisters think I’ve recently “gone to the dark side.” Now that I’m taking art classes with artist Mark Ballard and incorporating my drawings onto fabric and into quilts, it seems to them that I’ve left the world of traditional quilting to become an art quilter.
If there is a threshold to cross between those worlds, I don’t see it. I have recently been experimenting with the above-mentioned technique, crayon rubbings on fabric, watercolor on silk, and using fabrics that are not limited to quilting cottons. But that’s not new to me. And traditional quiltmakers have, for centuries, looked for interesting ways to bring images into quilts.
Look at Annie Mae’s Lace, the quilt I made in 2006. I printed blueprint images of Queen Anne’s Lace onto pretreated fabric and made a quilt. This piece measures 40” square, the botanical image is 25” square. I actually made this quilt to refine the border technique. I had seen photos of borders with vines with the inside and the outside of the vine being different fabrics, but had not seen any instructions on how to do it. So, this experimentation worked and I then used that technique on the larger Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden.
I’ve used the same sunprinting technique on several quilts; and on fabrics still in a box waiting to come out and play. I’ve printed feathers, leaves, scrapbooking stencils, and more. So far I’ve used two techniques – one dry process and one wet. Both processes involve spreading the fabric out flat, placing the masking object (leaf, stencil, whatever) on top, securing it so it doesn’t blow away, and exposing it to the sun. Then, when the “developing” is done, you quickly wash it to stop the action.
I’ll note the obvious here: this has to be done on a sunny day, and the image is sharper if you expose the fabric while the sun is high in the sky. I began playing with this technique before I retired. So, I spent some lunch hours securing big branches and leaves (and Queen Anne’s Lace) to the fabric atop foam board or something firm, waiting 15 minutes, washing it and putting it in the dryer. Lunch was en route to and from my office, I guess.
The dry process entails purchasing pretreated fabric for sunprinting (also known as cyanotype). These fabrics have been chemically treated to react to the sun and produce a negative image. If you are old enough, you’ve seen plenty of blueprints made the same way. The company from whom I bought my fabric is now known as blueprintsonfabric.com. Dharma Trading Company also sells some. Both of these vendors also sell the chemicals to prepare your own fabric.
The wet process involves using some type of paint on fabric which produces a negative image when drying. It is more labor intensive, but there are more colors available for the final outcome, and it can be applied to a printed fabric to add more interest. I used SetaColor paints available at any hobby shop.
Note that this quilt is ten years old. Yikes! There are lots of videos on youtube showing details of how to make a sunprint if you are interested.
I’ve taught the sunprinting technique to my local guild, and luckily, it was a sunny day and we made some successful prints. The process is fun, and if the wind blows, the worst that can happen is that you end up with some beautiful blue fabric!
Documenting my quilts and their stories is one of my goals for this online journal. Slowly, I’m doing that. But I’m also reminding myself of fun things I’ve neglected for a while. Excuse me while I go dig through my pile of sunprints to see what I might play with next.
Further details of this quilt: This was early in my life as a hand-guided, freemotion machine quilter. I had previously used matching or transparent thread attempting to make my irregularities less noticeable. Here, for the first time, I dared to try the continuous curves using a heavier, contrasting thread. I marked a one-inch grid and used that as a guide. The border fabrics are batiks, the vine is a quilting-weight cotton cut on the bias, batting is Dream Cotton request, and threads are cotton.
Annie Mae was the name of the beautiful lady who was my teaching assistant when I taught Head Start at Bruce Elementary in the summer of 1973. I was 22 years old, knew nothing about little kids, had been trained as a high-school teacher, and was surrounded by five-year-olds. She was my lifesaver! So I played with the plant name to give homage to the woman who kept me from exiting the teaching profession.