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"Painted Corn", 6.5" x 38", mixed media on fabric,  2015

"Painted Corn"

March 15, 2019

"Mixed media on fabric". I'd rather say "colored wholecloth", but no one ever knows what that means. It's not dyed. It's not painted. It's a single piece of fabric stitched and colored using water-soluble crayons and watercolor pencils. 

Maybe I will start calling it "colored wholecloth" since that's what it is.

How did I begin coloring on fabric? I was so enamored with the water soluble crayons that I did some web searching and tripped over a reference to using them on fabric. Drew a daisy on the backside of an old cotton shirt and was hooked.

I colored first, then stitched the top to the batting and backing using sketchy lines since the color was, shall we say, loose and relaxed. When I heat set the color, I scorched the fabric. Oops. So, I added more color to disguise the brown parts, then started to figure out how to control the product.

Here's attempt 2, basically the same as the first, but finished with beads and binding. Being not too quick, I scorched this one too. I am now very good about using a pressing cloth for heat setting!

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Did some more playing around and came up with the idea of stitching first, then coloring. Advantages: lines were defined and quilting was all done. Disadvantages: lines were defined but color didn't care. The obvious solution was to find a design to work with wandering color. 

"Painted Corn" was the result. The shape and coloration of the kernels allowed for color to travel and not be a hindrance. I used a spray bottle of water to mist the fabric before applying the crayons, then scrubbed it into the fibers with an old bristle brush. After that dried, I dipped watercolor pencils in water to get into the dark spaces between the kernels.

I was pleased enough with the final product to put it in a nature art show.

Here are some photos in process:

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It all starts with a line drawing.

What you don't see is the actual corn I studied for shape and coloring, the studies of how the light bounces off the kernels, and the sketches and changes before seeing this final drawing, aka pattern.

I had a scrap of fabric perfect for the backing so that dictated the size.

In the upper right hand corner of this picture, you'll see a multicolored strip of fabric. That is a test piece I made to determine how different heat set times affected the crayons after washing. (I cut it in half, washed one half, then sewed it back together to compare intensity of color.)

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This photo shows three steps. (I didn't want to bore you with separate pictures.)

Step 1 - trace the pattern onto the top fabric.

Step 2 - assemble the sandwich (batting and backing)

Step 3 - free-motion quilt the design ( I did a lot of practicing with paper and pencil to figure out an efficient quilting pattern. I also auditioned several different threads before deciding on this one.)

You may notice the fabric is narrower than the original drawing. I did the drawing before I decided to use that perfect scrap for the back.

Before applying any color, I washed the whole piece in soapy water (no fabric softener) to remove the tracing marks, remove any sizing in the fabric, and get any shrinking surprises out of the way. Rolled it in a towel to get most of the moisture out, then dried flat overnight.

Here you can see the coloring in process.

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Once I had all the coloring completed, I needed to finish the edges of the quilt and make a sleeve so it could hang.

That's when I discovered the flaw in my original drawing. I had focused my prep work on the kernels, but hadn't paid enough attention to the husks. They were way too short. So I folded over the top of the quilt so the pointed tips became the hanging sleeve and were no longer visible from the front.  Problem solved!

"Painted Corn" is an important piece for me. It is my first real colored wholecloth piece, works with the roaming properties of the coloring materials, uses machine quilting as drawing lines, and has no binding. (I still hadn't discovered facing at this point in time.)

That it won a ribbon in that nature art show is just the icing on the cake!

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