Understanding Materials - Kate's Fun Art

Understanding Materials

April 1, 2019

We all just want to be great at whatever project we set our sights on, don't we?  So what if we've never done it before! 

When I first started taking art classes, I thought the teachers were unimaginative and just filling time by having us make color charts and value scales in class.

Hah! That's why they were the teachers and I was the student.

As I encountered new art materials, I realized it was well worth the investment of time to make color charts to start learning about them. What does the color look like when it is applied to a surface? If it's water soluble, how does it change when it gets wet? Often the applied color looks quite different from the color source (crayon, paint, pencil, etc.) I keep these charts handy and have referred to them often over the years.

The same principles apply to fabric and batting. I had a project in mind and an idea of how I wanted it to look but no real clue of how to do it. I also had a brand new fancy sewing machine that was light years beyond what I had been using.

Prior to this project, all my painted wholecloths had been on cotton. I wanted to use a shiny fabric to stitch my design and then color parts of it. So I made a small sample using the slippery polyester and the machine I could barely thread. The result was thin and limp, not at all like I wanted it to be. (And not pictured here.)

Serendipity stepped in when I saw a small quilt made with two layers of batting. Some stitching had been done through one layer of batting, some was done through both layers. The light bulb went off and I stitched another sample. You can see that one in the photo - "2 layers of batting".

Still searching for what I had pictured in my head, I continued making samples using different combinations of batting and key design elements from the line drawing until I was finally satisfied I had a good chance of being successful. I was/am grateful to have many creative people in my life who are willing to share suggestions.


Knowing how details blur together, I was smart enough to write down what I did on each sample so they can be useful to me again in the future.



Next I needed to understand how the color would behave on this shiny fabric. I tried many different colorants on sample #2 and labeled each one. The inks bled like crazy and it was important that the coloring stayed in the lines.


It was time for a new color chart.



I used every suitable medium I had in the house, recorded the order of application, heat set it, cut it in half, washed the bottom part, then sewed it back together so I could check for colorfastness. The top two pieces are on cotton: sample #2 and the little one next to it are on the same fabric I chose to use for the project.

Before even starting on the actual piece, I learned about the sewing machine, the fabric, the embellishments, the coloring and the quilting. The end result is much better than it would have been had I not invested the time to understand the materials.



Here is piece K of "Le Jardin" before finishing the edges.


You'll get to see the entire project in a future blog.


Spoiler alert, the ten person collaboration project, "Le Jardin", was juried into the spring 2019 quilt show in Paducah, KY.

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