Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Making cotton with paint... and cotton

Have you ever tried to represent cotton in a quilt? I’m making a cotton field for the LIQ project because Jenny needs something soft and cushy behind her head (just kidding.) I tried to find suitable fabric in the quilt shops that would work, but ended up having to paint it. The brown fabric below seemed like a good prospect.Below is my first try with white acrylic. The blank areas are supposed to show the gaps between rows, but they aren’t defined enough. Also, the overall effect is too contrasty and Jenny’s plum color is too similar in value. By the way, if you’ve never seen cotton fields at harvest, the plants are dead and brown with a fluffy frosting of fiber.The lighter ochre colored fabric below is the next victim. Tape is used to mask off the gaps, and a natural sponge works well to apply the white paint. The secret weapon for making the dots is an embossing tool (used for metal tooling.) It makes much better same-sized dots than a brush can. Below is the field in place with a green strip for the tree line. Because the field fabric is placed over a flip-and-sew pieced background, it has some stabilizer behind it to prevent the bumpy seams from showing through. I was going to FMQ it, but ran into an unexpected problem with the white thread... it looked darker than the white acrylic paint, plus the needle holes were big and wouldn’t close up because of the paint. The result looked like a line of light gray stitching. It’s hard to see but it’s now quilted with small random seed stitches. I tried several white threads and none of them looked white enough so had to deemphasize the quilting. Besides, with the stabilizer underneath, it was very hard to hand stitch! In retrospect, the paint might have stiffened it enough that the stabilizer was not necessary.

The foreground of this quilt will have some actual cotton balls, such as these below. I was going to use those craft pom-poms, but that seemed pretty bogus. These are just little rolled up balls of white 100% cotton batting dipped in water and allowed to dry. I was thinking of dipping them in highly diluted acrylic medium to help them hold together better, but this seems to work. They will be sewed on with monofilament thread after absolutely everything else is done, because they’re so fragile and inclined to fuzz up.
I’m thinking about making some clouds with white thread machine-stitched on soluble stabilizer... we’ll see how that works out.


Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

Interesting to read how this is going and the problems you are having. Your second attempt was much more successful. Love the cotton balls.
Thanks for sharing and saving us all the trial and error when trying this painting technique.

Dolores said...

Oh, this is fun. I love seeing the progression and the reasons you use or not use different things/effects/techniques.

Beena said...

I can't wait to see this all pulled together! It's interesting to see the techniques you've auditioned.

Quilt Rat said...

This is looking fabulous! I absolutely love seeing the experimentation process, it seems we always learn something from every thing we do. Thanks for sharing

Diane J. Evans said...

What love and attention to detail you're giving to Jenny! I love hearing about the experimentation -- it always helps to know others have found lots of ways that something won't work.


Loreen Leedy said...

Yes, I’m a regular Edison over here, finding ways to NOT do something!