Sunday, February 23, 2020

Working With Kraft-Tex

Of the many things I've purchased over the years and seldom if ever used is a collection of stencils. I blame the lady and her enticing tutorials. Thanks to the the next binding I'm tackling in my Handmade Book Club having the option of using Kraft-Tex as the cover, I'm taking this opportunity to put two of these stencil to use. 

I bought a roll of black Kraft-Tex a year or more ago, not too sure about how I would use it but everyone was talking about it so I succumbed. Bookcovers was one of my thoughts as well as using Paintstiks on it, and now I had not only instructions but a whole slew of ideas generated by the others in the club. This is not Paintstiks, but Art Crayon, a freebie from the same enticing lady. I used a stencil brush to transfer the creamy pigment from the lipstick-like tube to the Kraft-Tex. I am thrilled. 

I planned to stencil the other half of this Kraft-Tex with acrylic paint, and a few days later, on my way to the table, stencil in hand, I managed to knock over a full glass of Mango juice with beetroot powder added. Very red. Very thick and sticky. Very everywhere as it tipped and spilled onto the sewing machine table where I'd set it, the other sewing machine table next to it and my thread cabinet which sits on the floor in between, before tumbling off the table to spill the rest of its contents on the rug. Yes, rug. My studio has carpeting. Well, so much for creative endeavors THAT day. And I am still hitting the major stains with the rug shampooer which is doing a great job of pulling it up. 

Kinda took the wind out of my sails though, and I didn't get back to trying the second round of stenciling until today. (Do NOT look at the carpet . . .) This time I used a round foam dabber to pounce the paint through the stencil. The red is Liquetex acrylic paint and the more orange color is Speedball screenprinting paint. I am thrilled with this too. I expended most of the leftover paint in the space on the left that will be leftover after cutting the green stenciled area to size. Just pressed that dabber onto the Kraft-Tex to make circles.

I didn't wash this Kraft-Tex before stenciling. I wanted to maintain a smooth look rather than a more textured leather look which most prefer. It's bowing from being rolled, even though I put it under weights for several days so we'll see if that causes any problems or can be rectified some other way. I do need to cover the Art Crayon with something since, even though the manufacturer says it dries and won't smudge after 24 hours, I can rub color off a sample I did shortly after I got the Kraft-tex. I've tested a workable fixative product called SpectraFix (yes, blame that lady again) and I like how it works and doesn't show on the black like matte medium does. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

What Happened Here?

I'll tell you what happened here. I succumbed to a Facebook post by my neighborhood quilt shop showcasing these dotted batiks. Now, do I need more of these favored batiks for my stash? No. But did my brain say, oh just walk down and take a look - you might need more when you get back to your water series? Yes. And so I did. What the heck. Call it retail therapy during a dreary part of winter, or supporting your local quilt shop, or reverting to old habits. Whichever, there I was, standing amidst a wonderful array of batiks, focusing just on dotted ones, and shopping like I used to when I was actually using up fabric!

But what else happened here is taking a next step. A few weeks or more ago, I stumbled across the sketchbook designated for water series ideas, buried and so forgotten that I actually was stumped by it until I opened it. Oh yes, I should leave it out, but I didn't. Then last week, a post on Charlton Stitcher's blog reminded me of the value of working out ideas in a sketchbook, just as I had intended when I started this Water Series sketchbook. As I prepared these new batiks and some less recently purchased ones for pre-washing, I cut a strip from each one to capture on a page of the sketchbook an idea that had been formulating as I picked each of these out. And just like that, it was saved for later, and just in the handling and positioning and jotting of a few notes, my brain continued to work on possibilities. And in looking back a few pages, I found an idea that could easily be carried out by two of my new batiks. We, or at least I, become static without physical engagement.

I've mostly been what I consider puttering this week. Printing out and organizing tutorials for the next books, watching some tutorials on the use of Kraft-Tex which I plan to incorporate into the next bookbinding lesson, and working here and there on additions to the 4-needle coptic binding book. I came across the triangles and strips when cleaning up my workspace a bit. They were trimmed from the paper used to cover the boards of this book, so it seemed appropriate to find them a home in it. Here they are glued over a spread that had a teabag adhered to it. Think of the arrangement as abstract trees, trees and leaves being the overall theme of the book.

I'm adding some text here and there too, some hand written and some printed from various sources. I've been holding on to that spiral with the person in the center for a long time, having copied it from a John Berger book. So simple but it resonated somehow, and with this quotation from Shakespeare calligraphied by Susan Gaylord, I felt this was one interpretation. As you can see, I've printed out some other things to include within these pages.

When I showed this page before, I mentioned I thought I'd write something over the trees. A perfect quotation presented itself on a post by an urban sketcher: "Trees are such good companions that their size never frightens us." In fact, in my experience, the bigger the tree, the more awed I am by it and want to get in close under what feels like protection. That is, unless there is lightening and/or high winds! I wish my small children were drawn a bit better but the roughness of the watercolor paper and my lack of expertise with a brush pen fought against me. Still, I think I get my point across: These are big trees and the children do not fear but welcome their existence.

More real dried leaves are finding there way onto the pages. This one still needs adhering down with matte medium.

And I'm still playing with ink on several pages. This one is ink brushed onto dry pages with a little water added afterward and is ready for more additions while another page shows more success with the dropping of ink onto a wet page. I like the smallness of the pages so I don't have a chance to get too carried away or overwhelmed by whatever idea I'm trying out, and that indeed, it has become a place to experiment. I can spend a few minutes with it, and often can only do one quick thing because of drying time needed. It's good discipline for me. 

Saturday, February 08, 2020

In Love With The French Link Binding

First off, I lied. I wanted to convince myself that the light rub of Paint Stix did the trick toning down the tissue paper and highlighting the wrinkles. But each time I came into the studio and saw it, my nose crinkled up. The rub of green just looked dirty to me. 

So I pulled out some acrylic paint after all, thinned it down, and practiced on the parts that would be the inside of the covers until I was sure I wouldn't get too dark of a layer that would totally obscure the print. You can see how much darker this front inside cover is, and the back inside cover is even darker.  I'm much happier with the outside of the covers now and it shows the texture much better.

So with all parts measured and cut and punched with sewing holes and the outside part of each cover carefully slit, it was time to thread a needle and start stitching. I had to laugh at our teacher starting out the video instruction with apologies for how long the preparation was (and I made it even longer!), but now we could get down to the fun part. And she was right. While this stitch looks complicated, it really is not, and was a joy to do.

Once all the signatures and covers were sewn together, the ribbon ends were fed through the slits to the inside of the folded covers (the long middle one also traveling back out near the edge), it was time to get fiddly again. Lots of glue to hold a piece of cardstock stiffener inside each folded cover before more glue to adhere both sides together, hiding those ribbon ends. Of course, the book, essentially finished, must quickly go under weights until the glue is firmly dried.

When I pulled it out from under the weights today, I was so pleased with how it looked, and the covers are nice and firm, almost as if they were made of bookboard. Best of all, the book lies perfectly flat as you page through it and the gaps between signatures is slight (partly because of the fineness of the thread I used). It is such a usable size at 5" x 7" and I have to tell, you, every time I open it, I just want to grab a pen and start writing! 

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Prepping For Another Bookbinding

The next bookbinding in my Handmade Book club is the French Link, one that, like the coptic stitch, I've admired and wanted to learn. And it might actually be done were it not for a hitch in what to use for the soft cover. I'd planned to use more of my eco-printed watercolor paper but found that the grain ran the wrong direction. So now what? I'd already chosen the ribbon that the binding is stitched over, and the thread so wanted something that would go with them. Looking at what others had used, I considered using some of my paints and a stencil to create a cover, which suddenly felt overwhelming (I have many stencils and paint colors to choose from). Or I could just paint some paper and sponge a second color over it - I've done that before with success. Or, I could once again kill two birds with one stone and try another texture producing technique I'd bookmarked which uses tissue paper. But instead of doing it using a sturdy w/c or mixed media paper, I dug through my collection of food boxes until I found one the right size with grain running the proper direction. Yes, even cardboard has grain apparently.

I've worked a little with boxes like this and know that you need to put a coat or two of gesso over the slick printed side before proceeding.

Most of the tutorials for this technique use white tissue paper but I'd saved this printed kind and wondered if some depth could be created by layering several pieces since tissue paper is not opaque. Nothing to lose by trying.

One tutorial used PVA, another gel medium, to adhere each layer of tissue paper, doing a bit of scrunching to create wrinkles rather than smoothing out the tissue paper. I opted for slightly watered down PPA (Perfect Paper Adhesive) and used 3 layers instead of two (because I had that much tissue paper and was going for those images shadowing through). It was difficult to stop myself from smoothing each layer out. Once weighted and dry, the tissue paper is trimmed one half inch beyond the edge of the substrate so that it can be turned to the back. I used glue stick for this step because each of these will be folded in half with a piece of cardstock in between for extra stability of the covers.

To be honest, the floral motif isn't very "me" and it was a bit bright and white for the tan ribbon I have set aside. Plus the wrinkled texture wasn't really showing. The tutorials had one last step of painting their white tissue paper to bring out the texture, but I feared I'd just cover up the print too much without really highlighting the lines of the wrinkles. After much thought and experimenting with a couple of options, I decided on applying this dark green Paint Stix using my finger so that the application would remain light while still darkening the wrinkles. Kind of hard to tell from the photo but perhaps if you click for the larger view you will see the difference between the piece on the left and the piece on the right that has Paint Stix worked over it. It has done the trick to make these go better with the ribbon, but I am very much on the fence about the look of the texture and the way the flowers shadow through the top layer.

In between these various steps to prepare the covers, I folded and trimmed to size the signatures. Now at last I am ready to punch my holes in signatures and covers, add slits to the covers and start sewing it all together.