Sunday, May 20, 2007

Play Day

Friday always feels like it should be a play day, although I don't usually use it that way. But this week I did. Time to paint that fusible webbing.

I tried this several years back after seeing it listed as a technique on art quilts, then seeing instructions in one of my books. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to do this, what the advantages might be over painting straight on the cloth. My little sample still left me wondering. The paint transferred as a shiny hard lump. I ran across this technique again in the Feb/Mar 2007 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine ("Textural surfaces for stitch" by Jeanne Raffer Beck). I'm still not sure why the attraction to painting fusible web, but her caution to not overheat it during the fusing process "or it will get a shiny, plastic look" made me think I should try it again and I might get different results.

I suppose it was that article so relatively fresh in my mind and the odd shaped scraps of fusible left over from prepping the angel for applique that made me think to use this in my upcoming journal quilt. It will feature a large stump, and rather than use fabric applique or decorative stitching, I thought I might recreate the look of the rough surface with painted fusible.

I cut open a plastic bag and taped it to a piece of cardboard to make a work surface. Some of the pieces of fusible were curling a lot, so I secured them with a little tape. I used some Liquitex Acrylic paint left over from leaf stamping last fall. The brown and the off white, I decided, should blend well for the look I'd be going for. I also had some green ready to go, so used it as well.

I expected the fusible paper backing to react to the moisture of the paint, crinkling up and providing some texture - this is what I remember from my first try at this. But the paper stayed flat. On a couple of pieces, I tried applying water before the paint, but I still wasn't getting much crinkling. But I did like the effect of painting on the brown in long streaks and following that up with streaks of the off-white. We'll have to see if it looks as good once it's fused onto the background fabric.

This process didn't take long, so I found my mind wandering to bleach discharge. I had a question about whether bleach would have any effect on a painted surface. Conventional wisdom and friends with more experience than I said, No - bleach should not "discharge" paint in the same way that it discharges dye. Then, of course, the friends followed up with, "But why don't you give it a try anyway?" I used a Clorox bleach pen to squiggle lines over this square of fabric that's been giving me such fits. It has a fairly heavy layer of blue Versatex paint applied over a thinner layer of Setacolor paint. I let it work for a bit - at least 15 minutes.

As I stared at the squiggles of gel lying on top of the paint, I thought - what a waste to just wash that down the drain...I wonder if I can transfer it to a piece of fabric. So I grabbed a square of black cotton, carefully laid it on top of the painted square, pressed firmly with my gloved hands, then pulled it off. The bleach indeed transferred, and quite smoothly too.

This makes me believe that one could draw out a design in bleach gel on a smooth surface and press it onto fabric as in printing. The advantage to this over applying directly to the fabric, I think, is that the bleach would be hitting the fabric all at once, thus the discharging effect should be more uniform if working on a large piece. It would also allow for correcting of errors when drawing out the design.

I checked the backside of the painted piece, and it looked like something was happening. I rinsed off the bleach under cold water and something definitely had happened. I don't think the bleach penetrated the Setacolor paint, but the Versatex definitely had been breeched. Now, whether this was because of a less than great bond between the Setacolor and the Versatex or because the Versatex reacted differently to the bleach than the Setacolor I'm not sure.

Next I tried using the bleach pen to apply the gel to a rubber stamp. I felt the need to work fast, so my application wasn't very even. The gel seemed to moosh out to the edges to discharge more or faster than the inner part of the stamp. This fabric was originally dyed with Indigo dye from Pro Chem, then painted with Setacolor paint and scrunched. It's difficult to see if the bleach had any effect on that dark red Setacolor or not. I hadn't expected the indigo to discharge to pink but it's not out of the range of possibility.