Tag Archives: Fabric Art

I’m Hearing Voices

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Heee-hoo. Heeee-hooo. That’s the sound of chickadees in my neighborhood repeatedly calling to one another from the treetops. They’ve been so insistent (heeee-hoo) that I decided that they must be trying to tell me something.

Pencil drawing of chickadees

Pertinent chickadees. Pencil drawing from my sketchbook.

I recently posted about looking for inspiration in color palettes of artworks. After I wrote that, I went shopping and had a lot of fun choosing fabrics to use as future book cloth. Even so,  I was still a little “meh” about any real direction. I didn’t want to just fall back on the same cats for imagery.

(I know! I can’t believe I said that. I love cats, but it can’t be all cats all of the time, can it?)

That’s where the chickadees come in. But how to print them? The lamp in my Thermofax machine burned out and, despite calling every rare bulb dealer in the US, I’ve yet to find a replacement. That means no easy way to screen print. (If anyone knows where I might find a replacement lamp for a 3M Secretary with 15 amps, let me know!)

Chickadee drawings, fabric, printed fabric

Upper Left: Fabric for soon-to-be books; Upper Right: The inked version of the drawing above; Lower: Birds printed on fabric using ink jet printer

As a possible alternative, I tried my ink jet printer to print the chickadees on the fabric. This isn’t exactly a new idea for me, I kind of re-remembered it as something I tried once and liked. I’m satisfied with how the birds appear on the cloth, but I’m not certain about how archival this method is, or how durable it will be as a book cover.

Ultimately, I want more complex patterns. And I’m not sure if I would print the whole book cloth cover, or perhaps cut out individual birds and sew them to different cloth, or both. Or, something else entirely.

Heee-hoo. I’m waiting for the chickadees to give me a sign.

 

Make Your Own Cat

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Make Your Own Cat

A few years ago, I constructed a prototype toy cat using scraps of hand-dyed fabric and some beans for stuffing. The resulting creature, let’s call him Stuffed Cat One, was entertaining, but not quite what I was trying to achieve. I learned a lot at that time, like, I don’t like working that small, the arms should be longer, the head isn’t dimensional enough, it needs a puss nose and whiskers. It’s kind of a long list. For whatever reason, I woke up this morning, three years later, determined to take another go.

Pink Beanie Cat

Here’s the original! Stuffed Cat One.

Stuffed Cat Two, assembled from black cotton, is fresh off the design table. It was not easy going. First of all, black is impossible! A lint collector of the first degree and hard to see details, I struggled with keeping it clean and concise.

Making a Stuffed Black Cat

Heads, legs, arms, and a tail. Plus, the unstuffed body of Cat Two.

Second, there are some proportions I would change. The distance from the nose to the neck seam is too long for a cat. The narrow arms and legs next to the puffy torso make Stuffed Cat Two look like a cousin to Piglet from the Hundred Acre Wood. The size and placement of the ears may be adding to this problem. The eyes give him that Toothless look from How to Train Your Dragon. However, these eyes are an improvement over the first attempt where I sewed on amber-colored jewels that made Stuffed Cat Two look like Super-Freako Sparkle Kitty.

Stuffed black cat.

The finished prototype. He has whisker issues, but he seems friendly.

Don’t get me wrong. Prototypes are important. I didn’t wake up thinking I was going to make Two, the Amazing Forever Cat. Besides, frustration is instructive. I learned that I like working this size better. I think the overall shape of the nose is improved over Stuffed Cat One. And, during construction, I figured out some shortcuts that would help if I wanted to make more than one at a time.

Stuffed Cats

Stuffed Cat One and Stuffed Cat Two, side by side, for comparison.

It is unclear whether or not I will now, or sometime in the future, create Stuffed Cat Three. All of my observations will guide me should I decide to make adjustments and try again. I just have this romantic notion of a herd of Stuffed Cat minions, all fun and funky, looking down at me from a decorative shelf. No matter what I decide, I’m sure you’ll hear about it one way or another.

Garfield, One Popular Gato

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Garfield, One Popular Gato

Before he came to live with us, Garfield was a neighborhood wanderer who enjoyed lounging in the neighbor’s driveways. Originally abandoned, he was left to fend for himself in our suburban South Texas subdivision. Garfield was one popular gato, and everyone on the street knew him. Some would give him treats when he made the evening rounds. Eventually though, Garfield decided he liked our backyard best, and we would find him asleep on a patio chair, ready to take scruffs on the head. It seemed natural the he would join our cat posse when the elderly couple who fed him moved away. After his history of abandonment, and the fact that he had adopted us, it was inconceivable that we would leave Garfield behind when we decided to relocate.

Ginger cat with signs

Left: My Big Orange Friend, Garfield. Right: Some of the signs we plastered around the area in hopes of a call for his return.

The night that Garfield disappeared, we had only been in the new house for a week. We were busy organizing, and unpacking until late. Our best guess is that Garfield wandered out of a door that was not properly closed all of the way. No human noticed he was missing until well after dark. Despite an exhausting and emotional search that lasted for months, we never saw Garfield again.

Collage of Garfield remembrances

Left: Small garden with cat nip located near the Tabby Shack. Center: My skirt complete with Garfield pocket. Right: Memorial lantern launch in remembrance.

This year, at the one-year mark of his disappearance, we made a small cat nip garden next to the Tabby Shack. I sewed a Garfield patch, that I printed, onto a skirt. And, after dark, we launched nine orange and yellow lanterns in honor of Garfield’s nine lives, and the 9 years we spent knowing him– 5 years in our San Antonio neighborhood, and 4 official years with us. I am still sad and sorry. I hope that Garfield is getting lots of love wherever he is. May he turn up in the old neighborhood in San Antonio, begging for treats.

I Would Dye For You

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Cotton fabric comes in plenty of solid, consistently dyed colors. Sometimes that’s exactly what I need, and what I expect when I purchase it. However, I appreciate the depth of layers and happenstance that occur when I hand-dye my own cloth.

Pink and purple fabric.

Fabrics dyed using low-water immersion techniques with Pro MX Reactive Dye.

I use the low-water immersion dye method, so you can forget that stinky pot of boiling chemicals steaming up the kitchen. Each piece of cloth is individually wrapped in it’s own packet or soaking in a container, left to absorb just enough dye to saturate the cloth. This allows for some migrating, pocketing, and patterning to occur, allowing for variations in the final surface. Hand-dyed cotton

I dyed 8 half-yards to use as the substrate for printed book covers. While the colors are nice, they are not as intense as I’d hoped. I lost a lot of dye in the wash-out, and it took repeated rinsing to get the water to run clear. I don’t know if the muslin I’m using just doesn’t hold the dye, (I wonder this because I over-dyed an older piece of heavier cotton from my stash and it held the same dye really well,) or there’s an effect from the softened water I used for rinse out, or if there’s something else I’m missing. If you know what I did wrong, please let me know!

In any case, I ended up with completely useable, pretty cloth. It will become more complex when I manipulate it further with printing and sewing.

Fabric drying on a clothesline.

My “drying room.”

I first learned this technique from Lisa Kerpoe at the Southwest School of Art a few years ago.

Here’s what I posted about it then.

You Need A(nother) Kitty

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June is Adopt-A-Cat Month here in the United States. A brilliant and worthy celebration! So, why have I waited so long to celebrate? Lack of direction? Indifference? Too busy? NO! Just wasn’t sure how to properly honor such an awesome event…so, I finally made a work of art to show my support.

According to the ASPCA

“Of the 3.4 million cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.”

I read that statement multiple times… MILLIONS of cats?! more are euthanized than adopted! only 5% returned to owners? Isn’t anybody looking?! We (as an internet culture especially) worship cats on a scale that the Egyptians couldn’t even imagine. And Egyptians took their cats very seriously. Did you know that, “because of widespread cat smuggling in ancient Egypt, the exportation of cats was a crime punishable by death?” Animal Planet  (I got this factoid and others here at Animal Planet.)

Adopting a new kitty, or adding some more to your collection, is the obvious way to celebrate Adopt-A-Cat Month, but if you simply can’t for practical reasons, then there are other ways to help.

  • Volunteer at your local shelter as a cat caretaker, helping in the socialization (this means petting and playing!), care, and well-being of cats until they are adopted.
  • Donate your dollars to cat rescue sites in your area. Many rescue agencies are run by individuals or small groups who personally assume the monetary burden of rescue. During the summer months, they are often saturated with kittens and need additional donations of food, old towels, carriers, cat toys, and cat litter.
  • Some areas sponsor trap, neuter, and release programs to help moderate and maintain feral cat colonies. Before I moved to Michigan, I was the Sunday night feeder for feral cats who lived in parking lots at nearby businesses. I supplied the food, and my husband and I would drive around just after dark every Sunday and leave food for groups of spayed/neutered colonies. Sometimes we would find new cats, or new kittens, which would then get trapped, neutered, and released back into the colony. Captured kittens were often adopted to good families!

While June is the official Adopt-A-Cat month, I think that every month should be Adopt-A-Cat month! I love cats and will advocate for happy, healthy, well cared-for cats with glee and passion. We all need a(nother) kitty!

Adopt-A-Cat

Fabric Collage: cold emersion dyed fabric, with screen, digital, and relief printing. Carol Parker Mittal