Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Building a Nest

I knew when I drew it that Lady Feather's nest would be perfect for discharge dyeing. So for those of you who are new to the art quilt world, discharge dyeing is using a chemical to remove color from already dyed fabric, leaving wherever you apply it white or close to white, without using the more destructive bleach.

My first task was in finding the perfect fabric. I chose a hand dyed rust fabric with some ombre color change from one side to the other. I bought a fresh bottle of deColourant, now made by Jacquard Products, and found a perfect sized brush.  

This product is reasonably toxic when in the gaseous state and also not the best to have on your skin. I was careful to use tight latex gloves and a respirator. I also brought my ironing board out to the deck so I didn't poison my kitties.

After making sure the fabric would give me the right look with a couple of samples, I painted on all of the twigs and grasses by using my light box and the drawing. As you apply it the areas appear wet but that is the only indicator that you have painted your design. Color does not come out until you hit it with the strong heat of an iron. You need to be methodical in your application of product. The fluid needs to dry after applying before the next step, so I set it in front of my studio fan and waited impatiently. A watched pot never boils!

Finally it was dry enough for the next step, which is applying heat with a dry iron until the design areas show with the desired degree of contrast. I used a press cloth below and above so neither my board or my iron was in direct contact with the chemical. You can actually see the smoke lifting off the fabric as it works.

Set up and ready to iron.

What it looks like as it is burning out the color.

I actually marked my press cloth with a marker so it never gets used for anything else.

What it looked like after the first application and ironing.

No matter how careful I thought I was at working methodically through the design, I missed spots. So I went back and re-applied to those areas and I defined other areas. After drying I ironed it off again. I actually ended up doing this one more time before feeling satisfied that it was the way I wanted it

I painted for the second time over the light box and my cartoon. Even with the light box it was hard to see because the color of the fabric was so dark.


Phew, finally I got to take off the respirator and get some fresh air!

The final step to making the fabric set and to stop the discharging process is to thoroughly wash the fabric with a strong detergent for laundering clothes. Synthrapol is often suggested as the best option, but not having any I just used my laundry detergent and scrubbed and rinsed a few times. If I were doing a large area with discharge, I would definitely invest in a bottle of Synthrapol, but as I am not a dyer I might not have any other use for it in my studio.

I may have been a bit free with the brushwork so after it dried I went back over the whole piece with a matching fabric marker and defined the lines. I love using Tsukineko Fabrico Markers to help define and refine areas on my fabrics. They worked wonderful here to really refine the brushwork. The nest was finally completed and ready to add fusible web to the back. 

I cut the outer edges close to the design and set it on top to see how it looked. 

I moved on to work other areas of Lady Feather which needed to be completed before the nest. Finally I got to set it onto the quilt with stitchwork. I decided to stitch crazy wild stitching in the negative areas around the twigs so that they would pop a bit and I accentuated that with an extra piece of batting beneath the nest. I used three colors of rayon thread, gold, rust and brown to give some shading and roundness to the nest. The best part of the stitching is looking on the back to see the saturation of the stitches. 

While it was a lot of work, I think it really helped to define the complexity of the twigs better than any other technique might have. Ultimately, I am pleased with how it came out and will not hesitate to use deColourant again for any other similar project.

In my next post I will reveal the completed piece and talk about the nervous energy of entering Quilt National for the first time.