This is easily the tenth or eleventh iteration of my studio space. As I cannot really leave, I have been trying to work in a ‘Green Space’ aspect into my world… I even bought a crazy, light of a billion suns lamp for my plants the other day and categorised it as an ‘art supply.’
My new sewing machine has arrived, but I am struggling to finish the written elements of my work, so haven’t had much opportunity to make anything.
To say that I am feeling a bit discombobulated would be accurate. I have found myself floundering and losing track of the days, and cannot seem to keep up with things.
aka: My Artistic Research 3 Formative presentation…
(My YouTube disclaimer workaround: if you click on the image, it will bring you to my presentation)
I know that I kind of went about this in a slightly unorthodox manner, but then… that’s usually what I do. It’s cheesy, and I get cut off at one point, and I think I sound a bit like a YA (young adult) audiobook narrator, but… here it is, warts and all.
There are things you can’t do when you are dealing with a bout of vertigo, and then there are things you can do when any movement of your head sends the world spinning (or rather you spinning whilst the world stands still)…
It turns out that when I can’t move, but want to research the history of quilt-making, I turn to YouTube.
Unfortunately for reasons I will explain below, one of the documentaries I watched was, “Quilt Fever,” a 2020 SXSW Documentary Short directed by Olivia Loomis Merrion.
Quilt Fever is, essentially, a mildly engaging short travelogue about a world-famous quilting competition in Paducah, Kentucky that has long been regarded as the “The Academy Awards of quilting” to the quilting enthusiasts of the world.
(My YouTube disclaimer workaround: if you click on the image, it will bring you to the movie)
This SXSW write-up about the short states that quilting is an, “underappreciated artform that requires creativity, skill, and dedication, yet is marked by a lack of pretension.”
Whilst I do agree with the first part about quilting being an underappreciated artform, etcetera, I do find that I disagree with the last bit about the lack of pretension. One of the things that always kept me from being able to get into sewing or handicrafts in general, was the amount of pretentiousness the women (because in rural America, you will be hard-pressed to find a man who sews) in my life who did things like quilting had for those who did not.
As such, quilting has long been something that I poo-pooed for the very reason that I found the people who did it not only filled with an overblown opinion of their hobbies, but severely lacking in taste as well. My childhood notions of quilting were cranky old women who hated children sewing blankets in shades of forest green and *shudder* peach (easily the WORST of the pastels, IMHO).
So, to think now that I am actually embarking upon at least a year of hardcore research into a medium for which I hold such an ingrained scorn is, to say the least, very surprising, but also strangely exciting (?).
This foray into quilting is going to push my preconceived notions I have for a ‘craft’ that I have long considered uncreative and twee at best.
Make a textiles printing board (basically an A2ish sized piece of MDF with wadding and felt stretched over it (allows for the pinning of fabric to the table)).
See if I still have a board that can be used as the base (most of my drawing boards have been repurposed as shelving in the kitchen) or order a piece of mdf.
Order wadding and felt for printing table.
Order safety pins or basting spray for quilting
Supply ordering aside, I have been doing a lot of research into process (Procion Dyes and Quilting, mainly). I have done some cursory research into the history of quilting, craftivism and textiles as a form of communication, but not as much as I would like to have done yet due to trying to sort out the practical side of things.
I have a virtual drop-in meeting with someone from the Textiles department Tomorrow. I have been hesitant to order any actual supplies for dying fabric because I haven’t been able to find much information about how well Transfix—the product that is supposed to make it possible to print on natural fibres with disperse dyes—actually works.
I think this meeting will help a lot. Not only with answering my question about transfix, but also whether disperse dyes are the best way forward with what I am hoping to do.
Traditionally, quilting is done with 100% cotton fabrics, and I was hoping to try to stick to traditional fabrics to begin with. That being said, synthetics aren’t something I am absolutely against using, as I am hoping to turn the idea of domesticity on it’s head a bit, and using non-traditional materials will eventually be where I am headed—I think—but I have long been a believer of learning how to follow the rules before breaking them.
However…. if transfix is not going to work, I think that leaves me with two options:
Forge ahead using disperse dyes, but on high-quality polyester… Downside to this = not a green material, and not terribly nice to work with.
(unless there are affordable, high-quality, recycled polyesters? Note to self: Ask about this tomorrow).
Switch to using Procion MX dyes and ask for guidance from the textiles department gurus.
(Note to self: Learning new things does not need to be scary. You are a student. The entire POINT is to learn new things, dodo head!)
Materials aside, I am almost ready to start writing my study plan. I have a few different ideas about what I would like to work on, but essentially, I will be exploring the idea of traditional gender roles, historically female handicrafts and how textiles have been used for centuries to communicate with the world.
Something I was thinking about when doing my research into disperse dyes is just how simple it is to use them to create transfer prints onto fabric, and how this could be a really fun activity for the children my sister, Rachael, works with.
Not only are the dyes affordable, but the process itself is so simple! Paint image in reverse onto cheap paper, let it dry, iron onto fabric, and voilà!
Rachael works with children in an elementary school. One of the activities she does with her kids is art therapy, so I thought… How fun would it be for her kids to create a collaborative quilt together?!
I spoke with her about it, and she seems pretty excited by the idea too. She thinks each kid might even be able to make their own lap quilt for when they have rest time (they are in 1st Grade, so no longer nap, but do have a rest period where they put their heads down on their desks for a little while). At the moment they’re using towels, so this might be a nice activity that would result in something they could actually use.
Rachael’s idea when we were brainstorming was that she could give them all a piece of paper that’s sectioned off into enough squares for each child to have one panel ftom everyone else’s design. The actual piecing together of the quilts will probably be done by her, but still… Such a neat idea.
Anyhow, I will need to look into if this will work with our external project brief, but even if it doesn’t, if she gets the go-ahead, I will do this with her regardless.
I found this old NYT article about Sublistatic Printing when I was researching disperse dyes earlier tonight. Apparently, disperse dyes were specifically developed for the sublistatic printing process by a Swiss chemical company for the textiles industry… I think?
I’ll do some more research and post more about it tomorrow.
Also, I wrote a much more detailed post earlier but the android notepad app gremlins appear to have eaten my homework.
Anyhow, here’s the article. More later:
Decals Are Big Business: In Printing of Textiles
Feb. 1, 1970
Credit…The New York Times Archives
See the article in its original context from
February 1, 1970, Section F, Page 12
An old art—decalcomania—has been given a new application in the textile trade. It is rapidly growing into a big industry and will prove an invaluable aid to apparel manufacturers and other who are using printed fabrics.
A process involving the transference of a printed design from paper to cloth has been perfected by a Swiss company, Société des Pro cedes Sublistatic, which has set up a subsidiary in New York called the Sublistatic Corporation of America. In business for less than two years, the company here is selling continuous rolls of decals as well as single‐sheet designs at a rate of almost 350,000 yards a month.
Westbury Fashions, Inc., a large producer of women’s sportswear, will use Sublistatic for much of its print ed‐garment production. Hy Rabin, president, pointed out that his company could do its own printing as it needed the goods and had only to stock gray goods, which involves a much smaller inventory investment than would be the case for Printed tex tiles.
500 Yards an Hour
Westbury has purchased a printing unit costing $50,000 and other equipment for making its own prints. The unit is made in this country by the David Lessner Company of Worcester, Mass., and can print yard goods at speeds of 500 yards an hour and higher.
Another type of unit for printing individual pieces, cloth, sweaters, hosiery, drapery panels and the like, is the Kannegiesser Automatic Heat‐printing unit. Gessner is the North American and Central American agent for the Kannegiesser unit.
The Sublistatic color system at present is adaptable only for 100 per cent man made fiber fabrics or in blends with at least 65 per cent of such fiber. These include acetate, triacetate, acrylics except modacrylics, nylon 66 and polyester. The fabrics may be woven, knit ted or of a non-woven construction.
The cost of the decals in continuous roller form is around 53 cents a yard, much higher than the printing cost in direct application of color or pattern by rollers or screen. But the higher cost is often offset by savings effected in not having to stock hundreds or thousands of yards of fabric awaiting possible demand.
Those who are using the method feel that the added cost is justified by the results. Color registry, for in stance, is as good as in the best letterpress or rotogravure paper printing methods. The fact that there is little or no stretch in paper makes it possible to get clean results without one color run ning over the edge of an other.
The decals are made by Sublistatic from original designs supplied by the textile company or garment manufacturer owning the goods. At present, they are pro duced in France, but eventually a printing plant will be set up in this country. Roger A. Lepoutre, vice president and managing director of the New York company, said that a design could be sent overseas, processed and re turned on paper within three weeks.
The dyes on the paper are produced by Ciba, which has an interest in the parent company. These dyes, when subjected to heat, are changed to a gas and fused into the fabric. They are said to meet all technical standards for dry cleaning, machine wash ability, shrinkage, light fast ness and abrasion resistance.
About 35 companies are either now producing Sublistatic prints or will be doing so very shortly. By the end of the year, according to Mr. Lepoutre, there will be 70 manufacturers in the United States.
Among those making the prints in addition to Westbury are Texfi Industries, Wamsutta Knitting Mills, Marva Industries, William Heller, Inc., the Talbot Knit ting Mills division of U. S. Industries, Leslie Fay, Inc., and Jonathan Logan.
It is a gorgeous machine, but it is daunting, and I must admit… I was (and am) more than a little afraid of it. I’m worried that it would be too complicated to use, and that I’d end up frustrated and crying rather than actually making anything.
So yeah… It’s super pretty, but I think I will be using something else to work with. Probably the new Janome 5060 QDC that I purchased after several days of confusing research. It was at the very tippy top of my budget, but my sister, who is an avid sewer says I’ll never need to purchase another machine ever again.
One of the things that I usually end up including somewhere in my work is text. As such, I have been trying to figure out not only an aesthetic for text that would work well with quilting, but also subject matter.
I recently discovered that my Great-Aunt Jennie (or possibly actually my Great-Grandmother, but that’s a family mystery none of us has yet to solve for certain) died during the 1918 pandemic. My stepmother found a letter that the Office Secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association in Great Falls, Montana wrote to my Great-Great Grandmother Vokes on December 10, 1918 about the death of her sister, Jennie Everett.
Anyhow, given that we are currently living through another pandemic, I was thinking that I might try to print the text onto the fabric and then quilt that. I haven’t thought it through much further than that at the moment, but it’s an idea…
Update before I post this: I decided to see if I could find anything else about Jennie and was able to track down the handwritten, in the book death certificate. The woman who wrote the letter to my Great-Grandmother is the same woman who informed the authorities of Jennie’s death. Also… She died on December 6th, exactly 59 years before I was born.