Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Rituals" Postcard

I have been part of a postcard swap group since 2005 that started as an outgrowth of a workshop at a VCQ meeting (Virginia Consortium of Quilters).  We started with about 15 people making cards 4 times a year and as time has passed, the group has dwindled as well as the swaps per year.   We are now down to 5 people and are sharing cards just twice a year (spring and fall), which really is plenty.  It still provides a challenge but gives us lots of time to contemplate and execute our interpretation of the theme.

The fall swap theme was "rituals".  While the dictionary definition focuses on ritual as a religious rite or ceremony, I went with the interpretation of a routine or repeated action.   Especially since I have retired, I start every day with coffee and the newspaper, so that is what I decided to portray on my card.  I started by taking 2 pictures, one of the Washington Post, the other of my coffee cup. 

With the newspaper photo I made a thermofax screen to print on my background of rust dyed fabric.  For the coffee cup, I used Lesley Riley's Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) to make a transfer. 
I like how the transfer is transparent enough that the newsprint still shows through.  Some simple stitching around the outline of the cup gives it more definition.  After fusing on the back, the edges are finished off with a satin stitch.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Screen Care

One key to helping your Thermofax screens last a long time is caring for them properly.  Here are some tips we share with students when we teach printing, and include with every order received in the Etsy shop. 
  • When you are finished printing with a screen, drop it into a pan of room temperature or cool water and rub gently with your fingers to get the excess paint off.  Don't use hot water - it can damage the plastic side of the screen.  You don't have to clean it thoroughly immediately, but also don't let it sit too long - no more than 5-10 minutes.  Letting it sit in water for a long period allows water to penetrate between the mesh and plastic layers of the screen, giving it a "bubbly" appearance. 
  • A kitty litter pan works really well for cleaning screens.  They come in several sizes.
  • When you are no longer getting "clean" prints, its time to wash the screen.  If you're really in a groove, its hard to stop, but trust me, you'll be glad you took the time to clean your screen and let it dry before continuing, both for the life of the screen and the quality of your prints.  
  • Metallic paints clog screens much more quickly than non-metallic paints, so you will definitely get fewer prints before it's time to wash the screen.
  • Any paint allowed to dry on the screen will clog the image and ruin the screen.
  • DO use a soft toothbrush to GENTLY clean your screens.  It helps remove the little bits of paint that may not come off with your fingers or that have lodged under the edges of the duct tape.  Brush on both sides, but be a little more gentle on the plastic side.  Some paints may leave a slight stain, no matter how good a job of cleaning you do.  That's not a problem, as long as its not blocking the image.
  • Pat the screen dry with an old terry bath towel and allow to dry completely before storing.  After patting dry, turn plastic side up to allow to air dry before storing.  Screens put away damp may stick to each other and cause the plastic emulsion to peel off.
  • Try to use up most of the paint on the screen or put it back in the container if possible before washing rather than dumping it into your clean up water.  

Here's a method for getting your screen almost clean before you wash it; this was a great idea from Diane Doran that we tried this summer.  When finished printing with a screen, a lot of paint gets washed away in the clean up.  Usually I print on extra fabric to use up the paint but an even better way is to print with a slightly damp sponge which not only uses up the excess paint but helps clean the screen at the same time.  I got lots of extra prints from every screen I used.  So rather than wasting that extra paint, make more prints!
Above I was using a sponge to print with the excess ink.  Below, all 3 prints were made using the sponge technique.
One final tip - scrapbooking storage boxes (the 12 inch square ones) are great for storing your screens, especially large ones, so they can stay flat.  Smaller plastic craft storage boxes are also good for medium and small screens.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


 Whew!  I'm very excited to announce that I (Sue) have been published for the first time!  A small 8x10 quilt I made for a Quilting Arts Reader's Challenge was selected for publication in the Dec-Jan issue, which is just beginning to arrive in shops and subscribers homes.  I believe the newsstand release date is Dec. 2.  The theme of the challenge was "Changing Seasons" but not just the obvious seasons of the year - also seasons of your life; transitions, transformations, changes that we all go through.  My interpretation was the life change of retirement, against a backdrop of riding off on a motorcycle trip the day after I left work for the last time. 

I started with this photo and used Photoshop Elements to turn it into a black and white image, the same process I use to make an image for a thermofax screen.  Instead of making a screen however, I printed the black & white image onto an inkjet fabric sheet.

Then I used water soluble pastel crayons to  color the image.  I have both Reeves and Derwent colors, but mostly used the Reeves.  

After coloring, I used the Fantastix brushes in the photo with water to blend the colors.  Then I made a thermofax screen of the word "retired" and printed it.

Next was quilting; a variegated thread was used for the trees and leaves, and red around the word "retired".  The binding is fused, a separate piece on each side and then satin stitched through all layers on the inside edge.  Here's the final piece and a close-up.

There's lots of stitching but it really blends in. If you click the picture to enlarge it you might be able to see it better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holiday Images in the Etsy Shop

As the holidays approach, we wanted to add some more holiday/ winter images to the shop that you might use in some of your holiday projects.  Our pine branch image has been there forever (one of our first designs), and we added a single pine cone this summer.  To complement those, we have added 3 new designs.  One is a small pine sprig; another is a grouping of 3 pine cones; the third is a vintage pine sprig. The 3 pine cones image is a medium size screen; the other 2 are small.

The image on the far right is the vintage pine cone.  This image is from The Graphics Fairy and is in the public domain.  The only restrictions on use are to use no more than 6 images from The Graphics Fairy in any one project.

Above you see a sample of the pine cone group and pine sprig used together.

This photo shows the vintage pine sprig paired with our bird.  The bird in the Etsy shop is a medium size (4.5 x 2.5 inches).  For a more compatible scale, the bird can also be ordered in a small size (2 x 3 inches).  Send us a note if you would like the smaller size and charges will be adjusted accordingly.

What could you do with these?  Well, ornaments of course, as in the last post.  Perhaps you send holiday postcards instead of commercial greeting cards.  How about some holiday dish towels or placemats?  Print some yardage and use it for Christmas stockings or holiday pillows.  What else can you think of?

Watch for a few more holiday images in the shop coming soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holiday Ornaments

Last week I was in need of some hand crafted holiday ornaments to donate to the Virginia Quilt Museum.  Of course they needed to have some screen printing, so I selected a few holiday images that I thought would work, and decided to print on some linen fabric for a natural look.   I cut 5 1/2 inch squares of the linen.  The screens I used were a vintage tree design made up of rows of birds, and a vintage pine branch that I combined with a bird.  I also remembered I had some wooden printing blocks that were trees, so I used those too. These are the initial prints.  You might be able to see that I drew a diagonal chalk line to help me center the image.  The top 2 are the screen printed designs, the bottom 2 are the block prints.

I had bought some embellishment products at Artistic Artifacts when I got this idea, so next I pulled those out to see what I could do to liven them up a bit.  One is a metallic thread, and the other is an embellished ric-rac trim, both made by Tentakulum from Germany.
On the block printed trees, I did french knots on the branches - they look almost like beads.  I used the ric-rac on the screen printed tree, and on the pine and bird design I made 2 french knots in the bird's beak to look like seeds.

The final step was stitching them together & stuffing, with a ribbon in the top corner for hanging.  I put the 2 block printed trees together, one on each side, and the screen printed designs together, one on each side.  Of course, you could easily put another holiday fabric on the back to make more ornaments.  Hmm...that's a good idea if I make more!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tumble Dye Part 3

A few weeks ago I did a couple of posts about using Tumble Dye, part 1 and part 2.  In this post I'll share the results.  With the first 2 pieces, I started with wet fabric and sprayed on the dye.  This allowed the colors to blend, but I was also concerned that they might be more faded looking when the fabric was washed.  So I decided to dye a 3rd piece starting with dry fabric.  First some pictures.

This is the leaf print after dyeing and heat setting - I don't think I showed this one in the previous post.
This is the 3rd piece I dyed, which has a more speckled look due to working with dry fabric.   This is the piece after heat setting but before washing.  The final step in my "experiment" was washing the fabrics to see how well the dye held up.  Below are the other 2 pieces prior to washing.

Finally, here are all 3 pieces after running through the washer and dryer. 

Keeping in mind that the lighting in the photos may not be the best, I purposely took the before & after washing photos in the same spot for comparison purposes.  I don't see a big difference, so I was pleased with the final result, the colors appear pretty much the same.  Just be sure to heat set, either with an iron or in the dryer before washing.  While this method does not give as intense color on the wrong side as standard dyeing processes, it's a viable alternative for smaller pieces, t-shirts, or if you just don't have time for the process of MX-procion dyes.  I would, however, recommend the Mist-It sprayers mentioned in the part 2 post for better control of the sprayer.  Give it a try!