Saturday, May 5, 2007


I suppose I still haven't explained how ending up in this foreign land of textiles is Traci Bautista's fault. But we're almost there . . .

About the time I was trying to be more spontaneous in my life, I happened across Traci's book Collage Unleashed. I was standing in the bookstore, thumbing through books on collage. Some of my art journal work was beginning to resemble collage, and I was really interested in understanding collage techniques. What adhesives did I use for what? Did I need to seal my painted pages? How did I do that? And what was this "gel medium" I kept hearing about?

I picked up Collage Unleashed, glanced through it, and promptly put it back on the shelf. Too messy, I thought. Too strange. Not enough step-by-step hand-holding.

That very same evening, I was watching a craft show I had recorded earlier in the day. There was Traci Bautista, demonstrating how to create prints from dyed paper towels. Not only did I think this was too coincidental not to be some huge cosmic tap on the shoulder, I also thought "hey, that looks like fun." Back to the bookstore.

Turns out that creating prints from dyed paper towels IS fun. So are most of the other techniques in the book. So there I am, freely dying and printing and stamping and embellishing paper, and I get to the part of the book where she starts to sew paper. "I have a sewing machine--somewhere," I thought, and promptly searched all the dark back corners of closets to find it. I drug it out and stitched some paper.

One day, while waiting to check out at Hobby Lobby, I noticed some white bandanas for 89 cents. I had noticed that Traci was also painting and dying and stamping fabric to use in collages, so when I got home I tried that. Painting fabric was even more fun than painting paper, and suddenly I had all this lovely, painted fabric piling up. Now what?

One of the projects in the book was a tote bag, and I thought I could probably manage that. I did some research on fusible web--who knew they had created double-sided fusible web in the 20 years since I had last sewn?--and headed to the store for some and some muslin for a backing (two items that Bautista mentions in her book). I had no idea what type of fusible web to buy or how heavy the muslin should be, so after what seemed like hours in the fabric store, I finally grabbed some Steam-a-Seam 2 (SaS2) and a yard of cotton duckcloth. It seemed more substantial than the muslin, which was pretty thin.

I laid the painted fabric onto one side of the SaS2, then cut geometric shapes: rectangles, squares, triangles, and strips. I then laid the pieces onto the duckcloth until I liked the arrangement, then ironed them down. I thought it needed something more, and then I remembered a collage I had made and scanned into my computer. I printed it out onto iron-on paper and ironed it to the piece that would become the front of the bag. Then, I just laid the two pieces of duckcloth with right sides together and stitched up three sides (the selvage edge became the top edge of the bag). I added a handle using invisible thread, and I sewed on a copper-wrapped dichroic glass pendant that had been lying around as a clasp (I attached a loop of black silk cording to the bag of the back with invisible thread to hook around the clasp). You can see the final results. I love it! I was hooked on fabric!

I did learn that painting fabric with acrylics without adding a fabric medium resulted in very stiff fabrics. I also learned that the SaS2 tended to make the fabric even stiffer. Fortunately, I was using these pieces for a bag that needed a little stiffness.

I had managed to parachute straight into this strange but tempting world that I knew nothing about.

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