Solids and Semisolids

Having recently created a great portfolio based motifs with an Indian theme, I found myself in need of a single color all over print. These prints help support and draw out the multicolor prints, they allow the eye a resting place within a quilt block. And needless to say,  if you want to make a quilt, you need a bunch of these.The above photo shows the single color design in-progress. I ended up blacking out the entire background of this print before burning it as a Thermofax screen. Now, I seek to print many, many, single color designs.
And although I think single color prints are boring to print…. I still need many of them… So I choose to put my reservations on hold until I print enough to make some pretty quilts! I just need to get past this part. Wish me luck.

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Women’s Health


Recently, I participated in an article in Women's Health magazine called How my Body Changed… And How it Changed Me. This is the September issue, whose theme is Strong, Sexy and Naked. For this article, the magazine interviewed three women in total, myself, Sarah Lee Strobel, an amputee and a Lindsay Washburn who has Crohn's disease and an ostomy.

Later in the magazine, the editors asked several women to complete the sentence, 'My naked body is…' to which I would respond, 'the best and most beautiful it has ever been.' Breast cancer facilitated my need to invest in body positivity and body love. And although I would not choose to be diagnosed with cancer, there is grace, there are blessings and there is beauty here.

I did not always think this way. Rather, I adopted these ideals. I faked it for a while, until it became my reality. I invested in finding beauty in all body types, fat and thin, black, white, yellow and red, female, male and everything in between. Prior to breast cancer my ideals were much more narrowly defined, less questioned; I made a conscious choice to embrace body positivity and body love, because my body would forever be changed. This is the blessing.

If you have found me through the Women's Health magazine article, welcome. I help run a support group called My Flat Friends. We don't care what type reconstruction you choose, but you must either know your BRCA status or have been diagnosed with breast cancer. You are welcome to join.

And as always, remember: Stage 4 NEEDS More. If you are inclined, please donate to Metavivor to ensure responsible use of money for breast cancer research that benefits those who need it most.

Modern Quilts Unlimited, Designer Spotlight and Ziggy Star Dots pattern!

Wow. I am in awe of this entire experience. I have never been featured in a quilt magazine, never had a pattern of my creation featured in a magazine and now, I can say both have occurred in the same magazine. Modern Quilts Unlimited did a fantastic job. I hope you have a subscription to this magazine, it is worth it. My quilt resides among other fabulous quilts by Melissa Dunworth, Sharon McConnell and more.

The feature article tells a far reaching story, from prior to going to FIT up until now, mentioning the books I have written, including an image of Playful Fabric Printing and sneak peeks of my upcoming line with RJR Fabrics (which will release in October). The article mentions my breast cancer advocacy work too. I think they did a great job with all of it.

And I am so happy to say, you too can make a quilt like Ziggy Star Dots. This quilt combines fabrics from Uppercase‘s first line of fabrics (Oh goodie, they are coming out with a second line!). I made the quilt specifically to show that you need not print all of the fabrics in a quilt, that pairing handprints with commercial prints really helps expand the quilt tops story. It takes some of the pressure off you as you learn to print your own fabric and helps you whittle your stash away too. It’s an all around win.

I hope you like the playful name as much as I do, what better way to honor your favorite rock and roll superstar than to name a quilt after them? 

TOR: Toxic Masculinity Must End

This is my entry into Threads of Resistance. I have named it, Toxic Masculinity Must End. It is printed using Procion MX dye on cotton broadcloth and silk organza. There are additional collaged elements like Meadowlark fabrics and tulle. I used the StencilGirl scroll stencil in its creation in addition to multicolor print sets . 

Please read it’s Artist Statement on the Threads of Resistance website.  
The imagery and ideas contained in this piece came to me in a torrent of creative engagement. I did not know quite what I wanted to express, or how I would present my message. I knew it would fall under the category of Women’s Rights. My artists statement sums up what this piece stirred within me. 

I praise the powers that be that I am able to express myself visually and that I live in a country where I can, indeed, express myself, my thoughts, my experience through art and otherwise. This is not to be taken lightly. Especially not now, when our rights are being questioned and reversed in what can feel like a daily onslaught. When possible political discussion is elevated to partisan name calling and bullying ends conversation before it can begin. 

For the last few years-one of my personal mantras is, “What would an artist do?” This helps me push myself beyond my own perceived barriers by externalizing what it means to be an artist. So why not transform my rage by encouraging us all to follow the $ and #resist. That’s what artists do. I hope you will head over to the Threads of Resistance and check out all the entries. The traveling exhibition will be announced soon. In the meantime, go see what our fellow fiber artists have to say on their chosen topics. 

Coloring a Print

The Playful Fabric Print-Along has been a boon and a learning experience for me. Today I share my work, here on my blog and also in our Facebook community page, Playful Fabric Printing.  I encourage you to join our community page to see what we have been up to! The Coupon Codes are to be found in this group and you still have time to use them!

Anyway, back to the ‘boon and learning experience’.

Above you see the background layer of the NYC MTA Subway multicolor set with a thin layer of two shades of thickened blue dye. This application of the two colors, in gradation-Light to Pale, adds visual interest to the sky in the design. It is as if the sky is depicted at dusk, at least that is how I like to think of it.

But really. Printing this background layer in this manner breaks up the background, which really colors a large portion of the design.

A greater learning experience for me, was in printing the carved rubber layer in Dark, Color #10, what appears brilliant green above. This green is a lighter value of Dark than many of the colors in the color triangle (Playful Fabric Printing, page 48). 

This fact made me think about and use color a bit differently than I normally would. I did not want to overpower the green or obliterate the carved detail of that layer. And this criteria encouraged me to print closely related values, Light with Pale, Light with Medium and so on. 

Thus far, I have printed 10 NYC MTA Subway prints, and I think I have just about figured out a methodical approach to both coloring and printing it, which is especially helpful when Speed Printing. 

In printing each one, I applied color judiciously. I began by coloring the subway itself, which was an easy choice, grey. I pulled a Pale and a Light grey from my mixed dyes. Knowing I would be overprinting the shading in the City Hall tunnel area of the print, I made the decision to print that layer one shade darker than the subway. It quickly became important to me that the MTA logo be colored blue.

And then the coloring of the word ‘love’ became a challenge. So, I worked and reworked the layers pertaining to the word and figured out how to color it to my liking. Putting words into a design is interesting and difficult. I am unsure I nailed this aspect of the design, but I cannot remove it either, so I am learning to color it to my liking. In my imagination this is graffiti, it also alludes to the 1970’s I love New York ad campaign. And I do enjoy riding the subway, so it fits.

It was great fun to combine the Printed Village NYC MTA Challenge with the Playful Fabric Print-Along. And please join our Facebook community! Folks are sharing great work in this group! Come see. 

I do hope my design wins the challenge, though, I may delete my current designs and upload better! Haha! 

Printing-Along Progress and the benefits in printing a Strike Off

I am creatively bamboozled by the Printed Village challenge at the same time as Carol Soderlund and I are hosting a Playful Fabric Print-Along. The two goals have collided. Really, I couldn’t be happier! Working in this manner is exactly how I was taught to design when I attended F.I.T.

Stylists would gather a presentation of ideas and we were asked to interpret them. Then we worked together to make the artwork stronger, with the best use of color for each motif. 

The graffiti element I spoke about in my last post? I decided to use the StencilGirl Scroll Y100rev as a graffiti like element in my NYC MTA Subway carved rubber layer. You see above, I traced out a few of the scrolls from the stencil to fill the ‘negative space’ with a graffiti like spray of scrolls. At least this is my hope.

(Check out this post about using negative space and stencils in a journal).

Drinking coffee while carving is the height of relaxation for me. So I got to work. 

This is a first printing or strike off (Playful Fabric Printing, page 29). Strike off‘s are very important to the design of multicolor sets (especially when designing in repeat). It can get confusing to think through the best use of color, without the use of this step. Strike off’s reveal and highlight the carved (all techniques really)design in the printed format. This information is an education to applying dye color and using the Playful Fabric Printing techniques.

This particular strike off revealed a several things.

1. I found a mistake in the repeat. Because I hadn’t carved another area of the design, and was able to fix the mistake.

2. I had left the uncarved area for inspection in this strike off, just to be able to ponder whether a textural element might be called for. Because of this printing, I decided against. 

3. Revealed detail possibilities, like the roof of the subway train, and the lone tree in the bend of the tracks. 

4. I had been thinking my lines were to heavy while I was carving, but this printing is pleasing and thus acceptable to me.

So I applied my fix and completed the carving.

This will be a fun print to color. I am working on this now. 🙂

Finding a purpose and applying my skills

I recently came across Printed Village, (did you know about it? And if so, why have you been holding back on me?) And? Of course, I have decided to partipate in one of their challenges. This site offers ‘story boards’ and deadlines for a surface design artists to create work on a theme, with prizes. Reread that last sentence. What more could a girl ask for? I have been wanting to design around the theme of NYC since I began Free Range Textile Printing, last summer. The theme of this challenge is specifically asking for artwork on the theme of the New York City Subway

At the same time, Carol Soderlund and I are hosting a Print-Along. (Please join in!)

So. I have decided to combine posts, because these two pursuits dovetail so nicely.


I love working with repeat. I have chosen to work with the 6″square because across the spectrum of art materials used, carving rubber, fun foam, and Plexiglas, all are sold in increments of 6″.

In addition, so much information can be depicted in this size and format, it is suprising. 

In Playful Fabric Printing we describe using a square repeat (Playful Fabric Printing, page 26) and personally, this has been a good, ‘go-to repeat’ since creating artwork for the book. It is an easy and straight forward repeat to do.

But, there are many types of repeat out there. Each provides attributes that work well for specific end goals. Florals can look really good in a five point repeat, for example. We all know the clamshell repeat and how we might use them in quilt tops. And of course, there is the all over repeat, which works well, over-all! 🙂

Of course, it does.

After compiling the above square repeat, I scanned, printed and taped 4 copies (Playful Fabric Printing, page 29) together, to evaluate the design.

And?

I don’t like it! I think it is heavy, clunky, and unappetizing. For the end goal of fashion wear, I think it needs a ‘visual lightening’, an aeration of motifs, if you will. I definitely want my design to illustrate iconic subway related imagery, which is what I perceive is being asked for. And, frankly, I would love to have an element of graffiti in there, but words make people read, and fashion-wise, not everyone wants to be read while-being-fashionable, so back to the design table I go.

I cleaned up the motifs that were holding me back and began to redesign within a Half Drop Repeat. This -I feel-, opens up design possibilities and gives space to drop in a new motif (or two). I need motifs that say ‘NYC Subway’ -to best advantage-. 

This repeat is, as yet, unfinished. I will update you on my progress throughout the next week or so.

I really look forward to carving it!! 

Lace Swirl quilt complete!

Here is my first entirely hand printed quilt top using my Melly Marks Lace Swirl Kit! I am loving it, I love the movement of the zig-zag half square triangles, the gradation of colors, the simplicity too. 

Later in the process of making the quilt top, I nabbed a few handprints created using Swirl Vine Kit to fill out the pattern and make a few more blocks. You can see these above. I just needed specific colors and a few more pieces of fabric, and these were quickly available.

One thing that I have totally fallen in love with because of this quilt is printing on Cotton Sateen. The peach pink at left is an example of this, though it is quite difficult to photograph the subtle visual difference and in blog post, it is impossible to illustrate how soft this fabric is. I printed just a few pieces of the cotton sateen, I don’t have much on hand, but wanted to use it anyway and think it a success. Having even a few pieces of this cloth in the mix livens up the top tremendously, lending a subtle sheen and a soft touch. 

I tried to stay within an analogous area of the color triangle, from purple, reds and yellows. I printed a total of 34 Lace Swirl Prints and 54 Chevrons. This means I printed about 5 yards of cloth! From start to finish, this quilt was printed, steamed, washed, cut, pieced, basted, machine quilted and bound in one months time! Wow. Pretty snazzy.

Getting from Here to There

Since taking this Free Range Textile Printers show on the road, I have printed about 80 Lace Swirl and Herring Bone fat sixteenths in total. In keeping with a recent love affair with Half Square Triangles, I went to work trimming them all to 8.25″, I like to cut them one at a time to maximize them as much as possible. After which, I paired them, right sides together, in groups of two, with an eye toward a light/dark pairing. I then marked them with pencil before piecing, cutting and ironing. 

This quilt has me thinking about the use of starch when ironing, so I went to Facebook to ask others for their experience. This interesting thread emerged. Check it out!

My love of the Half Square Triangles will not abate! The initial cut size is such that quilt tops quickly emerge, which is especially to my liking. I like making quilts, quick and easy. Large blocks help me do that. 

I really appreciate the back side of handprints too. The above print (the red) must have been a really juicy print to smoosh through the cotton print cloth like that! And it is so pretty to see how the printed layers of color interact with each other.The above quilt will be complete soon. I am excited about it so far. Can’t wait to show both sides, in good lighting. Normally I track these print jobs pretty closely. This time, I went about the entire thing in a much different manner. Tracking got cast to the wayside. I could track this lot retrospectively, by counting and comparing. I will see how far I can get. I could lead to a ‘printers must’ or pattern. 

To explain what I mean by a “printers must”, I need to harken back to my days as a sample cutter for a small women’s wear company. At the beginning of the day, I would be given a, “cutters must”, which looked something like this. From this, I could discern the path and needs of each cut sample on my docket for that day. Basically, I was given a pattern and the ‘cutters must’ were the directions. 

This in the hope of offering a Playful Fabric Quilt pattern. I have a bee in my bonnet. Goal #1 Make a downloadable pattern for Melanie Testa.com.

Print-Along preparation, Tips and Suggestions

In preparing to participate in the Playful Fabric Print-Along, I will address to the basic supplies you might need. First, please join the Print-Along in the Playful Fabric Printing Community, where we have discount codes to PRO Chem, StencilGirl and Melly Marks.

To start, you will need an inexpensive scale, this is a link to Amazon, which carries the exact scale that I use. This scale costs less than 10$.

I have put together a PRO Chem shopping list to get you started. There are two versions, a modest version and a robust version. In the modest version, you would need to find small jars-1 oz or larger with a tight lid in addition to enough of them to contain the palette of colors you choose to mix.

In the more robust shopping list, I include 28 1oz jars and the larger size of dye, so that you can mix all 28 colors in Playful Fabric Printing (If this is your intention, you will need to purchase the robust list, with 8oz size of the dye powders). After which, I  directly link to some other fun items. 

Pro Chem Supplies (link) Modest Robust
Soda Ash 1.75/1LB 6.50/5LB
Fabric 6.60/1Yard 33.00/5Yards
Pro Print Paste SH 6.14/1LB 27.65/5LB
28 1 Ounce Jars with lids   14.00/28 Jars
Dye Boats 2.95/12 2.95/12
Sun Yellow 108 4.95/2oz 14.14/8oz
Mixing Red 305 3.95/2oz 10.50/8oz
Intense Blue 406 6.95/2oz 25.28/8oz
Total:

30.34        

134.02

OTHER Items    
Scale (Amazon link)

13.00

13.00

You will also need to gather up a dust mask, a bucket, a drying rack, plastic spoons, yogurt cups, gloves and table salt. The drying rack that I use is Minky brand. I don’t specifically recommend it, but I do recommend a drying rack that is sponge washable so that dye can be removed with a wet sponge, the Minky rack is plastic covered, making it easy to clean. I keep a dedicated rack for use in the studio, so that there will never be fear of getting dye on our clothing.

I have created a new video called ‘PFP Tips and Suggestions’, in the hope of helping you form methodical habits when you handle dyes. 

Here are some other items you might consider, I suggest you put these items on your wishlist. Blick has Soft Kut Printing Blocks and Linoleum Cutters. eNasco has our favorite Creative Hands brand sticky back craft foam. And just so you know, this is my favorite brayer and here is a link to the June Tailor Cushioned Quilters Square ‘n Blocker, which makes a great padded work surface following the directions in Playful Fabric Printing, page 76. And here is the link to the Black & Decker Rice Cooker Plus (Playful Fabric Printing, page 55). Honestly, I could go on and on and link to every single item, but I will hold off. Once you fall in love with the techniques, you will definitely want to revisit this portion of the list.

To participate in the Print-Along, you will at least need to modest list of items found above. The rest is icing on the cake. Remember, join our Playful Fabric Printing Community page on Facebook to get the Coupon Codes and to Print-Along with us!