Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A "Sketchy" Experiment

This started as a white cloth and a desire to experiment with Caran d'Ache Neocolor II pastels.

an experiment

A photo I'd taken during cherry blossom season in Japan was my inspiration for the piece.

Japan, 2009

The figure is intentionally reversed. I'd drawn the image on tracing paper and moved it around on the fabric until I was happy with its position. Tracing paper allows the image to show even when it's flipped over.

As you can see, I then free-motioned quilted the lines through the tracing paper and onto the quilt sandwich.

After the first round of stitching I pulled away the tracing paper and did a second pass to darken the lines. Sometimes I intentionally "missed" the lines because I love a "sketchy" look, but I didn't stray too far. In my mind, accuracy seemed to fit the character of this piece.

Now for the experiment.
I've used the pastels in water-colour fashion, but wondered how much control I could exercise. Was it possible to keep the colour inside the lines?

Using the pastels like crayons, I coloured in the dress - dry pastels on dry fabric.

I used a fairly stiff paintbrush to sparingly apply water. My goal was to use enough water to activate the pigment, but not so much as to cause the colour to bleed into the background.

This went better than anticipated!

I would have been more accurate had I walked to the next room and found a smaller brush, but at the time I thought "what the heck" and used what was handy. I figured the whole thing could go straight to pot, so why invest too much effort, ya know?

But then it worked pretty well. Figures. Ha!

I used the same process for the umbrella, but by then I was pushing to see how much water I could get away with. There's not much wiggle room. You can see the wicking around the edges that even a tiny bit of excess water caused.

Colours are more vibrant when wet - they look much softer when dry.

I wanted to add cherry blossoms, so repeated the entire drawing, stitching, colouring, painting process. After heat setting my work, I was able to wet the piece and start developing a water colour-ish background.

I didn't mask the parts I wanted to keep white - just avoided getting those areas wet. Worked pretty well.

As I went along, I wondered what would happen if I quilted some extra flowers using pink thread.

I don't love 'em, but they provided some valuable lessons.

What I learned for next time:
  • using a smaller brush would afford more control when painting on a small scale (like, duh!)
  • pencil on tracing paper transfers to the quilt and shows up as dark lines under light thread - very ugly and impossible to remove (yep - that right hand flower - made things even worse when I tried washing the pencil out, too)
    • happy news - white fabric marker shows up surprisingly well on tracing paper and is a great alternative to pencil when using light thread!
  • using fabric medium *might* be an alternative to using water when more control is desired (tried it very timidly in the right hand flower - thought a bit more colour might cover the pencil smudges, but didn't want to make it too vibrant / attention grabbing) The fabric medium idea needs bolder exploration.
  • eliminating the extra "ghost" flowers would have made me happier, but it was a decision made too late. After the first one, I was committed - it was double stitched, so there was no way I was going to pick that sucker out!
  • Working small took away any fear of failure. If things went awry, it would be a very easy thing to try again! 

We had a good dose of snow over the weekend, but it quickly melted. My Mom spotted these beautiful blossoms on our river walk yesterday, so of course I whipped out my phone for a quick photo. I'm glad I did! We think they are wild honeysuckles.

Until next time,

Try, Learn, & Grow!


  1. Carole! This is beautiful!! Man, I love how you experiment and try new things. (and then share them with us, so *our* experimenting will be successful :-) (this is also a good reminder to wear swishy skirts ;-)
    I'm so glad your post was at the top of my bloglovin feed ~ it seems I can only manage to read a post or two a day, if that... I have well over a hundred unread posts in my feed.
    Those honeysuckle!! I bet it smells amazing as you walk by.
    Happy walking and sewing and stretching yourself ~ Tracy

  2. I love how this turned out and especially how you captured the "swoosh" of her skirt.

  3. I love your experiment! I wonder if the Derwent Inktense pencils would work as well.

  4. It's fabulous. The stitching and colour and design's fabulous!!!

  5. You do the coolest things Carole! This experiment turned out a lovely art quilt. Maybe the ghost blossoms look different in person, because I thought that they looked great in contrast to the sketchy blossoms. I love how your woman has do much movement. I have thought about FMQ through paper before and it was really neat to see how you do it with tracing paper.

    Snow... In May. Aye yai yai! The honeysuckle is beautiful!

  6. It turned out so well, have you got plans for more experimenting in this way? The movement you caught in this 'sketch' reminded me of the movement in your Granddaughter's winning quilt - you both obviously have a talent for capturing it, apples and apple tree comments spring to mind here! And what gorgeous honeysuckle blooms, I love honeysuckle but here it won't be out until much later, well into Summer, it seems incredible that it can b out with you whilst you're still getting snow too!

  7. How pretty! Sounds like a successful experiment.

  8. I have read and re-read this post. I just love what you did!


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